The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., June 27, 2001

HANSARD
01-59

HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Second Session

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2001

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1894, N.S. Tattoo: Participants - Thank, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6094
Vote - Affirmative 6095
Res. 1895, Robots EAST 2001 - Competition: Winners - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 6096
Res. 1896, Environ. & Lbr. - Recycling: Nova Scotia - Status Recognize,
Hon. D. Morse 6096
Res. 1897, N.S. Power - Renewable Energy: Initiative - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 6097
Res. 1898, Special Olympics - Participants: Inverness Co. -
Acknowledge, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6097
Res. 1899, Heritage Fair 2001 - Winners: Effort - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 6098
Res. 1900, Environ. & Lbr. - RRFB/Nova Scotians: Recycling -
Congrats., Hon. D. Morse 6098
Res. 1901, Rainer, Michael - Treasury & Policy Bd.: New Duties -
Best Wishes Convey, Hon. N. LeBlanc 6099
Res. 1902, Agric. & Fish. - U-Pick/U-Fish: Web Site - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 6100
Res. 1903, Air Medical Transport Prog. - Participants:
Work/Compassion/Dedication - Acknowledge, Hon. J. Muir 6100
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1904, Dignan, Dr. David - N.S. Dental Assoc.: Pres. -
Selection Congrats., (by Mr. W. Dooks), Mr. J. DeWolfe 6101
Res. 1905, Health - Caregivers: Gov't. (N.S.) - Condemn,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 6101
Res. 1906, Clark, Carol Diane: Can. Post - Retirement,
(by Mr. W. Dooks), Mr. J. DeWolfe 6102
Res. 1907, Durning, George and Margaret/MacDonald, Art: deCoste Ctr.
Cultural Award - Congrats., (by Mr. J. Carey), Mrs. M. Baillie 6102
Res. 1908, Harnish, Rhys - Dauphinee Inn: Taste of N.S. -
Restaurant of the Year (2000), Mr. J. Chataway 6103
Res. 1909, Harry R. Hamilton Elem. Sch.: Anniv. (20th) - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Barnet 6104
Res. 1910, Guysborough Antigonish Pictou Arts & Culture Council:
Organizational Success - Congrats.,
(by Mr. D. Hendsbee), Hon. A. MacIsaac 6104
Res. 1911, Eye, Barb/HRM Police - Cops for Cancer: Participation -
Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 6105
Res. 1912, Econ. Dev.: Intertech Marine Ltd. - Applaud, Mr. T. Olive 6105
Res. 1913, Cormorant Helicopters: Gov't. (Can.) - Delivery Timeframe,
Mr. J. Carey 6106
Res. 1914, Buck, Don - Auburn Drive HS: Leadership - Applaud,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 6107
Res. 1915, Williams, Rosanne - Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy:
Young Readers Prog. - Grade 2 Applaud, Mr. K. Morash 6107
Res. 1916, Ragged Island Cons. Sch. - The Net: Prog. -
Launch Congrats., Mr. C. O'Donnell 6108
Res. 1917, Saltsprings Elem. Sch. - Elizabeth MacLeod Mem. Book
Awards: Recipients - Congrats., (by Mr. J. Carey), Mrs. M. Baillie 6109
Res. 1918, Milford House Lodge - Reopening: Participants - Congrats.,
Hon. G. Balser 6109
Res. 1919, Sports - Chester Area Mid. Sch.: Jr. Track & Field Team -
Championship Congrats., Mr. J. Chataway 6110
Res. 1920, Patriot Days Celebration (Sackville): Organizers - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Barnet 6110
Res. 1921, Sports - Can. Sen. Baseball Championship (22-27/08/01):
Kentville - Best Wishes, Mr. M. Parent 6111
Res. 1922, Lt. Gov's. Awards - Liverpool Reg. HS/North Queens
Rural HS: Recipients - Congrats., Mr. K. Morash 6111
Res. 1923, Fundy Geological Museum - Proj. Prosaudropod:
Participants - Congrats., (by Mr. D. Hendsbee), The Speaker 6112
Res. 1924, N.S. Visitor Info. Ctr. - Opening: Staff - Best Wishes,
Hon. P. Christie 6113
Res. 1925, Mem. HS - Graduates: Achievement - Commend,
Mr. C. Clarke 6113
Res. 1926, Instit. For Early Childhood Educ. & Develop. Services (Truro):
Anniv. (25th) - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 6114
Res. 1927, Normandy Invasion: Participants - Honour,
(by Hon. N. LeBlanc), The Speaker 6114
Res. 1928, 4-H - Eastern Breeders: Showcase - Organizers Congrats.,
(by Mr. C. Clarke), Mr. W. Langille 6115
Res. 1929, Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau HS: Graduates (Present/Past) -
Congrats., Hon. N. LeBlanc 6115
Res. 1930, N.S. Boat Builders Assoc. - Dev. Workshops: Approach -
Congrats., Mr. C. O'Donnell 6116
Res. 1931, Truckers Assoc. (N.S.) - Early Intervention Assoc.:
Participation - Acknowledge, Hon. E. Fage 6117
Res. 1932, MacMillan, Gerry - Golf: N.S. Mid-Amateur Championship -
Congrats., Mr. J. Carey 6117
Res. 1933, MacPhail, Sgt. Bruce (Deceased): Contributions -
Acknowledge, Hon. P. Christie 6118
Res. 1934, RCMP - Tech. Crime Unit: Members - Work Recognize,
Mr. F. Chipman 6119
Res. 1935, Sisters of Service - Halifax: Serv. (75 yrs.) - Acknowledge,
Hon. J. Purves 6119
Res. 1936, Environ. & Lbr. - Nova Scotians: Environmental Awareness -
Encourage, Hon. J. Muir 6120
Res. 1937, Health - Bill No. 68: Alternative - Opposition Detail,
Hon. D. Morse 6120
Res. 1938, Lyttle, Darrell - Broomball: Contribution - Recognize,
Hon. R. Russell 6121
Res. 1939, Emergency Health Services - Paramedic Pilot Proj.:
Long & Brier Islands - Efforts Applaud, Hon. G. Balser 6122
Res. 1940, Tourism & Culture - Celebrations: Inverness Co. -
Volunteers Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6122
Res. 1941, Cole, Christian - Anna. Valley Music Fest.:
Herbin Bowl Winner - Congrats., Hon. R. Russell 6123
Res. 1942, Inverness Mun.: Efforts - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6123
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 596, Gov't. (N.S.) - Rules & Traditions: MLAs - Rights Respect,
Mr. D. Dexter 6124
No. 597, Health - Strike: Contingency Plan - Safety, Mr. W. Gaudet 6125
No. 598, Health - Opinion Poll: Results - Details, Mr. D. Dexter 6126
No.599, Premier - NSGEU Offer: Refusal - Explain, Dr. J. Smith 6127
No. 600, Health - Care Workers: Promises (Prem.) - Credibility,
Mr. D. Dexter 6129
No. 601, Premier - Corp. Research: Poll - Instructions, Mr. D. Wilson 6130
No. 602, Health - Nurses' Strike (1975): Premier - Experience Explain,
Mr. K. Deveaux 6131
No. 603, Health - Opinion Poll (Ipsos-Reid): Results - Accuracy,
Dr. J. Smith 6133
No. 604, Health - Bill No. 68: Radiation Therapists - Effects,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 6134
No. 605, Health - Strike Contingency Plan: Cap. Health Dist. -
Response Explain, Mr. Manning MacDonald 6136
No. 606, Health - Care System: Chaos - Responsibility, Mr. F. Corbett 6137
No. 607, Health - Hants Commun. Hosp.: Closure (26/06/01) - Explain,
Mr. W. Gaudet 6138
No. 608, Health - Surgeries: Cancellations - Reasons, Mr. J. Pye 6139
No. 609, Health - Cap. Dist. Health Auth.: Surgeries -
Cancellations Explain, Mr. D. Downe 6141
No. 610, Health - FOIPOP (DHAs Budget/Plans): Release Violation -
Explain, Mr. Robert Chisholm 6142
No. 611, Health - Contingency Plan: Fast-Tracking - Details,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 6144
No. 612, Gov't. (N.S.) - Bill No. 68: Free Vote - Policy, Mr. F. Corbett 6145
No. 613, Health - Northside Gen. Hosp.: Switchboard Closure -
Explain, Mr. B. Boudreau 6146
No. 614, Health - Cap. Dist. Health Auth.: Nursing Vacancies -
Bill No. 68 Effect, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6148
No. 615, Lbr. - Collective Agreement: Negotiation - Policy Explain,
Mr. D. Wilson 6149
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 69, Nursing Staff Retention (2001) Act 6150
Dr. J. Smith 6150
Hon. J. Muir 6152
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6153
The Premier 6154
Hon. M. Baker 6156
Mr. B. Barnet 6157
Mr. M. Parent 6159
Mr. T. Olive 6160
Hon. D. Morse 6162
Hon. R. Russell 6163
Hon. N. LeBlanc 6164
Hon. G. Balser 6165
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 1685, Gov't. (N.S.) - Bill No. 68: Subsequent Legislation -
Reconsider, Mr. M. Samson 6167
Mr. D. Downe 6167
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6171
Hon. P. Christie 6173
Mr. K. Deveaux 6174
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 68, Healthcare Continuation (2001) Act 6177
Mr. D. Wilson 6178
Mr. Robert Chisholm 6186
Mr. M. Samson 6197
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6216
Mr. J. MacDonell 6232
Adjournment moved 6247
Vote - Negative 6249
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6249
Mr. G. Steele 6262
SPEAKER'S RULING: Dispute Between Members 6277
Mr. W. Gaudet 6278
Mr. D. Dexter 6287
Hon. J. Muir 6299
Previous Question Put:
Vote - Affirmative 6302
Vote - Affirmative 6303
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again at the call of the Speaker 6303
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1943, Health - NSGEU: Gov't. (N.S.) - Offer Reconsider,
Mr. W. Gaudet 6304
Res. 1944, Health - Bill No. 68: Backbenchers - Prem. Inform,
Dr. J. Smith 6304
Res. 1945, Duffie, Stewart "Skip": Can. Peacekeeping Service Medal -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 6305
Res. 1946, Simms, Sandy: Achievements - Congrats., Mr. C. Clarke 6305
Res. 1947, Yarmouth Cons. Mem. HS - Law Enforcement Prog.:
Graduating Class - Congrats., Mr. R. Hurlburt 6306
Res. 1948, Yarmouth Assoc. For Commun. Residential Options:
Anniv. (10th) - Congrats., Mr. R. Hurlburt 6306
Res. 1949, Paris, Bill - Pictou Co. Sports Heritage Hall of Fame:
Induction - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 6307
Res. 1950, Baker, Jack - Landsdowne Outdoor Rec. Dev. Assoc:
Dedication - Commend, Mr. J. DeWolfe 6308
Res. 1951, MacKenzie, Don - Barneys River Sta. Sch. Museum: Model -
Const. Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 6308
Res. 1952, NSCC - Pictou Campus - Riverview Home Adult
Residential Ctr.: Const. - Commend, Mr. J. DeWolfe 6309
Res. 1953, Rudderham, Janice - Fishermen & Scientists Research Soc.:
Oceans 11 Award - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 6309
Res. 1954, N.S. Lifeguard Service - Mun. Yarmouth/Mun. Clare:
Partnership - Congrats., Hon. N. LeBlanc 6310

[Page 6093]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

1:30 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Kevin Deveaux, Mr. David Wilson

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Earlier I rose on a point of privilege, to which you made the statement that by the end of the day, the current day, that I would have a decision. I realize that you may have misspoke, unintentionally, and at that juncture that day has formally ended. That is my one point of order.

My second point of order, if I am allowed, when would be a reasonable time that you as Speaker would be back in the Chair, that I could expect to have a decision? We are in another day. Would it be later in this day? Would it be fair that I could expect a decision later in this calendar day?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member and all honourable members, I fully recognize that we were doing some of yesterday's business today. I will assure you again that we will render a decision before the conclusion of today's business, which would be July, pardon me, June 27th. (Interruptions) Order, please.

6093

[Page 6094]

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for that clarification. That was exactly my concern, that we may not see His Honour until the fall. You made a slip about July, it was getting close to the fall. I understand you meant June. I thank you for that response.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1894

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Nova Scotia Tattoo is one of the world's largest annual indoor shows which has been delighting Nova Scotians and visitors to our province since 1979, and features over 2,000 of the world's best military and civilian performers; and

Whereas this year's Tattoo will get underway for 10 days starting June 29th, with CBC's George Jordan as its new emcee; and

Whereas this year's Tattoo will feature entertainers from France, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House commend the Tattoo's organizers for producing what promises to be yet another spectacular show, give a thousand welcomes to visitors and international performers, particularly the ones who are visiting Nova Scotia for the first time, and thank the entertainers for the thrills they will surely give their audiences with each performance.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 6095]

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Recorded vote.

MR. SPEAKER: A recorded vote have been called for. (Interruptions)

The bells can ring up until 2:35 a.m. or until the Whips are satisfied.

[1:35 a.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[1:37 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Perhaps, as per usual, I will ask if the Acting Whip for the NDP is satisfied. Is the Acting Whip for the Liberals satisfied? Is the PC Whip satisfied?

I have been requested to call for a verbal recorded vote, and just to remind honourable members, the honourable member for Inverness, the Minister of Tourism, requested waiver of notice, a recorded vote was called for but, by unanimous consent, we have agreed to a verbal vote.

Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I know there is no such thing as a point of clarification, but I am rising on a point of clarification. We have asked over the past few days with regard to Notices of Motion (Interruption) Very well (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just for the information of the House, we are still dealing with Government Notices of Motion.

[Page 6096]

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1895

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Robots EAST 2001 competition, held in Moncton, provides high school students from the Atlantic Provinces the opportunity to design, build, and test large 30-kilogram robots; and

Whereas Pugwash District High School won the Atlantic Championship and placed second in both the Best Engineered Robot competition in the Multi-Media Award class, and Dartmouth High School placed second in the Atlantic Championship Award competition; and

Whereas J. L. Ilsley High School won first place in the Multi-Media Award category;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the accomplishments of the staff and students from these schools in the Robots EAST 2001 competition.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1896

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas in March of this year, I personally welcomed the Environment Minister for the Republic of Ireland, Mr. Noel Dempsey, and his colleagues who are planning on spending almost $2 billion Canadian to implement their own solid waste management strategy; and

Whereas that two day trip to Halifax and Lunenburg was so successful that Minister Dempsey commented that his country's aim was to get the best possible solid waste management technology and systems, and that if it were to come from Nova Scotia it would be as welcome as if it were coming from Ireland itself; and

Whereas in two weeks, based on the success of that trip, another Irish delegation, including members of the Irish Parliament from the governing and Opposition Parties will again be visiting Nova Scotia recycling facilities during their three day trip here;

[Page 6097]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize that our province is a leading player in recycling worldwide, and that our companies are as capable of providing expertise in Ireland and other countries as well as they do at home.

I would like to table that, Mr. Speaker.

[The notice is tabled.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1897

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Nova Scotia Power recently announced that it was asking for expressions of interest from private power producers for up to 50 megawatts of wind energy; and

Whereas an additional 50 megawatts of wind energy could represent about 2 per cent of Nova Scotia Power's total generating capacity; and

Whereas at present more than 70 per cent of the province's generating capacity depends on coal with the balance in fuel oil, natural gas, hydro and tidal power;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Nova Scotia Power for taking a step in the right direction to bring more renewable energy into the Province of Nova Scotia's electrical system.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission.

RESOLUTION NO. 1898

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Chris Matheson, David Gunn, Jonathan MacEachern and Amanda MacDonald of Dalbrae Academy recently participated in the regional Special Olympics track and field meet in Antigonish; and

[Page 6098]

Whereas these athletes won a total of eight ribbons; and

Whereas each of them has qualified for the upcoming provincial track and field meet;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge the success of these fine individuals from Inverness County.

[The notice is tabled.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1899

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Heritage Fair 2001 allows students from Grades 4 to 9 to explore aspects of Canadian history, produce projects that reflect our culture, and present these in a public forum; and

Whereas Alicia Maynard of Brooklyn District Elementary School won the Heritage Fair 2001 with her project, The Tragic Halifax Explosion; and

Whereas Zachary Porter of Brooklyn District Elementary School, and Tyler Bryan and Laura Walker, both of Pine Ridge Middle School, and Jenni Herbin of Wolfville received honourable mentions;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the outstanding effort and enthusiasm of these students and congratulate them on their accomplishments at the Heritage Fair 2001.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1900

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas just last week the Resource Recovery Fund Board in Truro marked its fifth birthday and celebrated the occasion by distributing more than $7 million to municipalities for their role in recycling in this province; and

[Page 6099]

Whereas over the five-year life of the RRFB, the organization has distributed more than $29 million to municipalities for waste management programs and services in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas last year Nova Scotia became an international leader in recycling around the world, which led to the coining of the phrase "Nova Scotians, World Leaders in Recycling, Our Success: It's in the Bag";

Therefore be it resolved that municipalities, RRFB, and the people of Nova Scotia be congratulated for their recycling success and the rewards that so rightly come with it, and be encouraged to keep up the good work.

I would like to table that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 1901

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[1:45 a.m.]

Whereas Michael Rainer has been an institution in government for many years, including the past seven and a half years with the Department of Finance; and

Whereas during that time Michael Rainer has proven himself to be a valuable resource to this department and during budget lock-ups, to all members of this House; and

Whereas Michael Rainer has moved to the newly-formed Treasury and Policy Board;

Therefore be it resolved that this House wish Michael Rainer all the best in his new duties.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

[Page 6100]

RESOLUTION NO. 1902

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas a great summer family activity is to visit one of the province's 42 U-Pick and U-Fish operations; and

Whereas in order to make it easier for those who want to visit a U-Pick or a U-Fish, the province has launched an on-line directory listing the 42 operations around the province; and

Whereas visitors to the Web site http://www.gov.ns.ca/nsaf/marketing/contact/u-pick/index.htm will be able to search by commodity, find travel directions and determine other amenities at the sites;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all who have set up the U-Pick, U-Fish Web site, and urge visitors and Nova Scotians alike to take advantage of it.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1903

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas our province's Air Medical Transport Program recently celebrated its Fifth Anniversary; and

Whereas the air ambulances have flown more than 2,000 missions since the service was established in 1996; and

Whereas we are fortunate enough to have a dedicated air ambulance service in Nova Scotia to help transport high-risk patients to hospitals in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that the province acknowledge the hard work, compassion and dedication of the air medical flight crews, the pilots and support staff, and wish them well in their future missions.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[Page 6101]

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1904

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member for Pictou East, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Nova Scotia Dental Association recently named a new president of the association at their annual meeting in Halifax; and

Whereas Dr. David Dignan of the Westville Dental Clinic became the first Pictou County resident to ever be named President of the Nova Scotia Dental Association; and

Whereas, along with Dr. Dignan, Dr. Allen MacIntosh of the Highland Dental Clinic also received an award for outstanding community service;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs extend their best wishes to Dr. David Dignan and wish him an enjoyable year as the new President of the Nova Scotia Dental Association, while also congratulating Dr. Allen MacIntosh for being recognized this year for his outstanding work.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1905

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas in areas of high unemployment like Cape Breton, nurses and other health care workers are often the primary wage earners in their household; and

Whereas when health care workers in these areas decide to take job action, they do so under great strain and stress to their families; and

Whereas deplorable working conditions and forced overtime mean even greater strain on their home life;

[Page 6102]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House condemn this heartless Tory Government and express distaste for their tactics against our overworked and underpaid caregivers, who have demonstrated more dedication to the people of Nova Scotia than any Tory ever did.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1906

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member for Pictou East, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas 2001 will go down as a special year in the heart of Carol Diane Clark of Westville, as she takes early retirement from Canada Post as a clerk at the post office in Westville; and

Whereas 2001 will also see Carol Diane Clark retire as Worthy Grand Matron of the Grand Chapter Order Eastern Star of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; and

Whereas Carol Diane Clark brought forth many talents as she also served the St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church where she taught Sunday school, participated in the Girl Guide movement, served as President of the Mother's Club of the Dunvegan Girl's Pipe Band, while also serving as President of the Westville Fire Department's Auxiliary;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly commend Carol for her tireless work ethic in volunteer activities and while we are losing her to Ontario this summer because of her husband's work, we are sure she will always call Westville, Pictou County, home.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1907

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member for Pictou West, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 6103]

Whereas the deCoste Entertainment Centre, a cornerstone of waterfront development in the Town of Pictou, encourages local business development and attracts many visitors and, since opening its doors in 1982, has become one of the finest venues for the performing arts in Eastern Canada; and

Whereas the deCoste Centre has showcased many famous artists and has also played a leading role in the presentation of many local performers like school choirs, rock bands, drama groups and local folk musicians; and

Whereas at its recent annual general meeting, the inaugural deCoste Entertainment Centre Cultural Award was presented, and chosen to receive this first-time award were singers George and Margaret Durning and Art MacDonald, theatrical performer, producer and director;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate George and Margaret Durning and Art MacDonald for being selected for this inaugural award and recognize the high standard of performance and the fine entertainment facilities which the deCoste Centre provides as an important asset to the Pictou area and the province as a whole.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 1908

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Taste of Nova Scotia Quality Food Program is an association of Nova Scotian food and beverage companies, which is committed to providing the finest locally produced products; and

Whereas Taste of Nova Scotia's Restaurant of the Year 2000 was introduced in 1999 to celebrate the commitment of members to providing a quality Nova Scotian dining experience with the winner chosen from nominations by consumers from all over Canada, the United States and many parts of Europe; and

Whereas Hubbards' own Dauphinee Inn has been named the Taste of Nova Scotia's Restaurant of the Year for the year 2000, in recognition of its fine menu, excellent service and wonderful dining experience;

[Page 6104]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Rhys Harnish, owner-operator of Dauphinee Inn, and his staff on this reputable award and thank them for maintaining such high standards, which reflect well on everyone along the South Shore.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1909

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on Monday, June 25th, staff, students and friends of Harry R. Hamilton Elementary School is Middle Sackville celebrated their 20th Anniversary; and

Whereas this celebration included the family of the late Harry R. Hamilton, a World War II veteran who lost his life defending Canada; and

Whereas this school is a shining example of a school filled with pride and spirit;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Harry R. Hamilton Elementary School on their past 20 years of educating young people from Middle Sackville.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1910

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Guysborough-Antigonish-Pictou Arts and Culture Council (GAPACC) is a young membership organization dedicated to the enhancement of artistic and cultural life in the region which promotes excellence among practitioners by creating learning opportunities and establishing networks; and

Whereas GAPACC spans three counties and has grown in its first year of operation to include 220 members to become the largest arts council on record in the province; and

[Page 6105]

Whereas with programs such as Gathering of the Arts, which brings artists and volunteers together to provide the opportunities for local artists to exhibit and market their works to the area residents and visitors, GAPACC has made an impact on the organization of artistic and cultural events by pulling together and motivating a strong membership;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Guysborough/ Antigonish Pictou Arts and Culture Council for its organizational success and for showing that arts and culture are alive and well in northeastern Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1911

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas 106 of our proud Halifax Regional Police, more than one-quarter, volunteered to shave their hair for the Cops for Cancer fundraiser; and

Whereas Constable Barb Eye, the force's only mounted officer, had more to donate than most of her colleagues - over 40 centimetres worth - so it is also helping out Wigs for Kids, who accept hair for wigs for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy or other illnesses; and

Whereas in our society shaving one's hair is a big sacrifice, but in the hopes of raising $50,000 in total, the officers felt it was worth it;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud Barb Eye and her Halifax Regional Police colleagues for setting aside vanity for the sake of cancer research in their tremendous efforts through Cops for Cancer.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1912

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 6106]

Whereas the boat building business in Nova Scotia is diversifying and no longer concentrates on fishing vessels for the domestic market alone, but is now crafting high-quality, ultra-modern yachts for the large American East Coast market; and

Whereas the economic spinoff from this industry is significant and many small coastal communities are being revitalized by these boat building activities and skilled labour is in demand; and

Whereas enterprises like Intertech Marine are leading the way by combining years of experience with knowledge of modern materials and technology to manufacture pleasure craft, super yachts and commercial vessels in safe, cost-effective and environmentally-conscious facilities;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud Intertech Marine Ltd. and the new technology firms who are investing in Nova Scotia and encourage boat builders to retune their skills to fit this modern twist to an old-time Nova Scotian tradition.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1913

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the first of the new Search and Rescue Cormorant helicopters is expected to arrive at CFB Greenwood later this year; and

Whereas to show you the present state of our Search and Rescue helicopter fleet in this country, last week a Labrador helicopter, during a training flight over western Kings County, lost an emergency exit door when the door fell off the aircraft;

Therefore be it resolved that the MLAs in this House urge this government to speed up the process and the delivery of the Cormorant helicopters so that the safety of pilots will not be compromised.

[The notice is tabled.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

[Page 6107]

RESOLUTION NO. 1914

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas like its mascot, the eagle, Auburn Drive High School is rare, it is an above-average, technically-advanced facility with a technically knowledgeable staff, offering a wide range of student activities including the Talon, a student-generated magazine; and Auburn Air, a news broadcast which transmits and posts stories on-line; and

Whereas Principal Don Buck is a rare bird too, and for seven years has provided strong leadership, taking his students under his wing, offering them guidance, giving them vision and pushing them to reach their potential so that in the seven years he has tended the nest over 2,000 graduates have been made ready to fly; and

Whereas while the school's spirit soars, it appears that "the Buck stops here" and Principal Don Buck is taking flight, leaving Auburn Drive High School to join the Halifax Regional School Board as a senior policy advisor;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House, on behalf of the students, staff, parents and community at large, applaud and thank Don Buck for his incomparable leadership, for his inspiration and his dedication to the students in his care at Auburn Drive High School.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1915

MR. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas reading gives life to words in print and opens doors to new worlds, and when children are given the gift of reading they also receive a wealth of ideas, dreams and imagination; and

Whereas the Department of Education's Active Young Readers Program aims to usher children through these doors, and as a tool in the hands of inspired teachers like Rosanne Williams, of Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy, children are bound for success; and

[Page 6108]

Whereas through a program component called, shared reading, Grade 2 students were introduced to Shakespeare and met The Tempest head on, undaunted by the English they read through the play and brought it to life;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the Grade 2 class of Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy for their incredible performance and commend their teacher, Rosanne Williams, whose creative teaching is building skills her students will always thank her for and is making memories these kids will never forget.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 1916

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas students of Ragged Island Consolidated School will be involved in a unique learning experience called The Net next year thanks to funding from the Nova Scotia Arts Council's Arts inFusion Program; and

Whereas The Net is a project that will tie life in a seaside community to the everyday curriculum, such as the ocean, lighthouses, the fishing community and their connection to it; and

Whereas students will create a map of their community and their environment, record and collect stories from local people and will learn how creative movement can be an important part of their lives;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate the students and staff of Ragged Island Consolidated School and the Nova Scotia Arts Council as they launch this educational program.

[2:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

[Page 6109]

RESOLUTION NO. 1917

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Pictou West, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas reading is perhaps the most important skill children need to learn for success in school and in life and a teacher's role is to guide children towards that success through reading; and

Whereas students will rise to teachers' expectations and when teachers engage students and make them interested in what they are learning, they are capable of significant accomplishments; and

Whereas students at Salt Springs Elementary School have been engaged in the joy of reading and have met with great success and six students, Coady Smith, Sam Galvin, Jordan Dunlap, Matthew Lees, Ashley Mahoney and Kathleen MacKinnon have been honoured for their reading efforts with the Elizabeth MacLeod Memorial Book Award;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate these recipients of the Elizabeth MacLeod Memorial Book Award and encourage the staff of Salt Springs Elementary School to continue to motivate their students to read so that they will be well equipped to face the many challenges ahead.

MR. SPEAKER: [The notice is tabled.]

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 1918

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Milford House Lodge of South Milford has a 140 year history as a stopping place enjoyed by tourists and sportsmen who come for the trout fishing, moose hunting and simple natural beauty; and

Whereas in the early morning hours of September 7, 2000, that long history came to a tragic end when fire razed the main lodge and restaurant; and

Whereas on Sunday, June 24, 2001, less than nine months after the fire, the board of the Milford House Lodge and the community of South Milford celebrated the grand re-opening of the newly constructed Milford House Lodge and Restaurant;

[Page 6110]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the board of the Milford House Lodge and the community of South Milford for the way in which they have worked together to ensure the continued operation of this historic lodging house.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 1919

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas competition was tough at the recent Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation track and field meet; and

Whereas a number of schools were within points of winning, but the last event proved to be pivotal and the Chester Area Middle School junior boys were triumphant when their fourth place finish gave them enough points to take home the provincial banner; and

Whereas Nathan Reid, Cody Hebb, Cory Swinamer, Logan Hicks, Mike Evans, John Campbell and medal winner, Harley Peters, made up that team and together they came through the back door to claim the provincial title;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate each member of the Chester Area Middle School junior track and field team and their coach, Todd Hennigar, for earning this provincial title and for being part of the fine athletic tradtion at the Chester Area Middle School. And, Mr. Speaker, that was my school.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1920

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on this weekend the community of Sackville will celebrate their annual Patriot Days celebrations; and

Whereas these celebrations include a Canada Day parade, ball tournaments, dance, flag raising ceremony, bean dinner, fishing derby and a variety of other fun activities; and

[Page 6111]

Whereas these celebrations mark the beginning of summer for many Sackville residents;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the volunteer organizers of Sackville Patriot Days.

I would table that motion.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1921

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Kentville will play host to the 2001 Canadian Senior Baseball Championship between August 22nd and 27th; and

Whereas Kentville Parks and Recreation Director, Mark Phillips, and the organizing committee for the senior baseball championship are going over every detail leading up to the tournament, which is now less than two months away; and

Whereas the host, Kentville Wildcats, and nine other teams from across Canada will be divided into two pools in which a round-robin will be played with the top teams advancing to the championship;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs take this opportunity to extend our best wishes to the Town of Kentville and the 2001 Senior Baseball Championship Organizing Committee in their preparations for this year's championship.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1922

MR. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 6112]

Whereas each year, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia awards Grade 11 students from across the province whose personal qualities of leadership, school participation and community service is outstanding; and

Whereas these students are chosen by the principal and staff of their schools and have been selected from among their peers because of their commendable academic performance and actions which have distinguished them in their teachers' eyes; and

Whereas this year, Grade 11 students, Danielle AuCoin and Jacob Lingley, of Liverpool Regional High School, and Rebecca Foley and Benjamin Whynot, of North Queens Rural High School, have been so honoured;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join with the principals and staff of Liverpool Regional High School and North Queens Rural High School to acknowledge the character and hard work of these students, and wish each one of them the very best as they rise to meet new challenges and strive towards their dreams.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1923

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Speaker, the member for Cumberland South, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Project Prosaudropod is enabling fossil fanciers with Internet access to watch the unearthing of a 200 million year old dinosaur's fossilized bones from the comfort of their own home; and

Whereas the project, operated by the Fundy Geological Museum in Parrsboro, provides a link to the museum's lab where three technicians are releasing the bones of the prosaudropod from the rocks that have encased it for centuries; and

Whereas in July, the Web site will introduce the micro-cam, a camera attached to a microscope, to allow Web surfers to see what the technicians see as they work;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the scientists and technicians at the Fundy Geographical Museum for providing unprecedented access to a fascinating part of our province's history.

[Page 6113]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 1924

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the HMCS Sackville Wharf is one of the more popular summer gathering points for Nova Scotians and visitors alike; and

Whereas it is important for the tourists who visit the waterfront to be able to receive quick answers to their questions in order for them to enjoy their stay and, perhaps, stay longer; and

Whereas that assistance can be offered quickly with the opening today of the Nova Scotia Visitor Information Centre, situated next to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on the HMCS Sackville Wharf;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House wish all the staff who work at the Nova Scotia Visitor Information Centre the best of luck in their new surroundings and hope that it will provide a more convenient location for our visitors.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1925

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on June 26, 2001, the Northside community in Cape Breton celebrated the graduation for students of Memorial Composite High School in Sydney Mines; and

Whereas hundreds of students have successfully completed their academic pursuits, in addition to many extracurricular activities, both in school and throughout the community; and

Whereas my brother, Rannie Edgar Clarke, of whom I am very proud, joined his friends and fellow students for the ceremony;

[Page 6114]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the graduates of Memorial High School on their achievement and commend the teachers and staff for their dedication and commitment to educating our leaders of tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1926

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas in 1976, the Institute for Early Childhood Education and Developmental Services opened its doors in Truro; and

Whereas over the course of the past 25 years, the Institute has provided first-rate training for those who provide services to preschoolers; and

Whereas a ceremony was held last weekend to celebrate the Institute's 25th Anniversary and honour all those who have graced its halls over the past quarter-century;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Institute for Early Childhood Education and Developmental Services on its 25th Anniversary and wish it all the best in its next 25 years.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 1927

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Cumberland South, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on June 6, 1944, Allied forces began the liberation of Europe by launching an amphibious invasion of France; and

Whereas 15,000 Canadian troops took part in this epic struggle, with most of them landing on a Normandy beach, code-named Juno; and

[Page 6115]

Whereas their heroic efforts allowed them to move farther inland than any of the other Allied landing forces;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House honour those who risked, and in too many cases gave, their lives on the beaches of Normandy in June more than half a century ago so that we could continue to enjoy the freedoms we have today.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1928

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Colchester North, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas 70 4-H members from Atlantic Canada participated in the annual Eastern Breeders 4-H Showcase from June 24th to June 26th; and

Whereas this event, organized by 4-H staff and the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, has been sponsored for the past 12 years by Eastern Breeders Inc.; and

Whereas 4-H members learned the finer points of show preparation on Sunday and Monday before entering the beef and dairy show on Tuesday;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all who helped organize as well as those who took part in the Eastern Breeders 4-H Showcase.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 1929

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: M. le président, à une date ultérieure, j'ai l'intention de proposer l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que la dernière cérémonie de remise des diplômes à l'École Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau aura lieu demain soir; et

[Page 6116]

Attende que ce sera la dernière classe de finissants de cet établissement d'enseignement auquel je suis fier d'appartenir comme ancien et ami; et

Attendu que les élèves de cette école fréquenteront en septembre prochain la nouvelle École secondaire Par-en-Bas et Drumlin Heights Consolidated High School;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette assemblée félicite les finissants de cette année et tous ceux et celles qui ont contribué à la vitalité de Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau au cours des années, comme élèves, professionnels et bénévoles.

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat it in English, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau High School is holding its graduation ceremonies tomorrow evening; and

Whereas this will be the last graduating class of this institution, of which I am extremely proud to say that I am among its alumni; and

Whereas its students will be leaving to attend the new École secondaire Par-en-Bas and Drumlin Heights Consolidated High School in September;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate this year's graduates and indeed all who graced Sainte-Anne-du-Ruisseau's hallowed halls as students, professionals and volunteers.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 1930

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Nova Scotia Boat Builders Association is presently in the process of a year-long series of professional development workshops designed to provide important information about the industry; and

Whereas the workshops are being held in 12 boat building communities across the province including two which have already taken place at Barrington Passage and in the Town of Shelburne; and

[Page 6117]

Whereas the boat building industry is looking for people to begin work in their industry with a majority of yards in the process of building boats, boats which are more than just commercial fishing boats;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly commend the Nova Scotia Boat Builders Association for their proactive approach in dealing with this issue and wish them continued success in the process.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1931

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia donated more than $6,000 to the Early Intervention Association of Nova Scotia, an organization that provides specialized services to families with preschool-aged children who are developmentally delayed; and

Whereas the truckers began assisting the Early Intervention Association after the non-profit group helped fellow trucker, Colin Sears of Amherst, whose son, Jason, had spina bifida; and

Whereas the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia has raised more than $18,000 for the Early Intervention Association since they began their charity work in 1996;

Therefore be it resolved all members of this House acknowledge the hard work of the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia in helping to provide support and assistance to families with developmentally-delayed children through their fundraising efforts.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1932

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Paragon's golfer Gerry MacMillan turned in a brilliant final round on Sunday in Amherst to win the Nova Scotia Mid-Amateur Golf Championship; and

[Page 6118]

[2:15 a.m.]

Whereas in order to win, MacMillan had to battle stiff winds and overcome a five-shot deficit, with an impressive five-under par 66; and

Whereas the win Sunday, gave MacMillan his third provincial mid-amateur championship, while also maintaining his streak of top three finishes that began in 1994;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs congratulate Gerry for another exceptional golf performance, while wishing him, and second, third and fourth place finishers, Gary Carter of Amherst, Paul Batchelor of Granite Springs and Dean Woodman of Avon Valley, as they represent Nova Scotia at the nationals later this summer.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 1933

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Sergeant Bruce MacPhail of Fall River passed away at his mother's home in Bedford on June 14, 2001, after a short courageous battle with cancer; and

Whereas the late Sergeant MacPhail graduated from Holland College Police Academy in 1979 and joined the Amherst Police Department, later becoming one of the first members of the Bedford Police Department in 1982; and

Whereas during his tenure as Sergeant in charge of the Stolen Vehicle Division, Sergeant MacPhail continued to take courses at Saint Mary's and Henson College, and he received the highest marks in Canada in his last course, Human Resources;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the many contributions made by Sergeant Bruce MacPhail to his family and his community, as well as his life-long devotion to law, order and justice.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

[Page 6119]

RESOLUTION NO. 1934

MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas technological crime across Nova Scotia is expanding at a rapid pace; and

Whereas in today's computer world, small children are innocently revealing far too much information about themselves; and

Whereas Sergeant Al Langille from the RCMP technological crime unit in Halifax recently trained 24 police officers from across the province in a new computer software game, which teaches children primarily in Grades 5 to 8, a constructive way to have a better, safe, on-line presence;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs recognize the dedicated work being put forth by the three members of the RCMP technological crime unit as they teach other officers and local members of community policing associations, enhanced measures to keep Internet criminals from taking advantage of our children.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1935

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Sisters of Service have been an active and significant feature of the religious life in Halifax for 75 years, offering support and guidance to many city dwellers, including the sick or dying, the homeless, post-war immigrants and many young people fleeing dysfunctional family environments; and

Whereas the Sisters of Service have provided a consistently useful and meaningful ministry through a time when Halifax found itself confronted by unique social problems, with which it was ill-equipped to deal; and

Whereas Archbishop Terrence Prendergast recently presided at a special service at St. Mary's Basilica in honour of the Halifax mission of the Sisters of Service;

[Page 6120]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the important and dedicated service offered by the nuns in the Halifax mission of the Sisters of Service over the 75 years of dedicated community service they have provided to their city.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1936

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Nova Scotians will recycle their 1 billionth beverage container within the next year, recycling 258 million beverage containers last year; and

Whereas the Resource Recovery Fund Board generated $8.7 million last year, which will help fund recycling, education and composting programs throughout the province; and

Whereas Nova Scotia now diverts 50 per cent of its solid waste from landfills through reducing waste and reusing and recycling waste products;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Nova Scotians for their internationally renowned dedication to improving and maintaining their environment and encourage the province to continue to improve its environmental awareness.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1937

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I must say, what a fine resolution that was that was read by my colleague, the honourable Minister of Health. I like that one.

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Bill No. 68 was introduced to ensure the continuation of health care services for Nova Scotians in the event of a strike, but allowed bargaining to continue in the hopes for a negotiated settlement; and

[Page 6121]

Whereas our government feels that for a province with the highest per capita debt in the country, an offer which makes our valued nurses the highest paid in Atlantic Canada is a fair offer; and

Whereas the Premier was quoted in the Sunday Daily News saying, ". . . the government could not take the easy way out and . . . negotiate an agreement that we know will not guarantee the sustainability of the health care system.";

Therefore be it resolved that the Opposition, who has railed against the bill since its introduction, confirm whether their alternative is chaos in the health care system or a tax hike to cover a greater settlement.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 1938

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Ellershouse native, Darrell Lyttle, was recently inducted into the Canadian Broomball Federation's Hall of Fame during this year's national championship tournament in Calgary; and

Whereas Darrell has been involved in the sport of broomball for nearly a quarter of a century and has attended 24 of the 25 national tournament championships since the first one was held in 1977; and

Whereas in 1986, Darrell's superior administrative skills were recognized by the governing board of the Canadian Broomball Federation when he was appointed secretary, a position he still hold today;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly recognize the contribution put forward by Darrell Lyttle to the sport of broomball in this country and offer congratulations from all MLAs for his dedication and years of service.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

[Page 6122]

RESOLUTION NO. 1939

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the paramedic pilot project on Long and Brier Islands in Digby County, officially launched earlier this month, is now gaining international recognition; and

Whereas the Journal of Emergency Medicine has expressed interest in doing a feature article on the project, which the Western Regional Manager for Emergency Health Services Nova Scotia, Wayne Lemoine, said could be used across North America; and

Whereas the pilot project involved P-3 paramedics who live on Long and Brier Islands, who, in turn, do medical treatments such as blood pressure and glucose monitoring;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs recognize and applaud the efforts of Emergency Health Service personnel for their interest in establishing such a positive program and wish them continued success.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1940

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas many communities throughout Inverness County will celebrate festivals, ceilidhs and dances this summer; and

Whereas these events are important fundraisers for many organizations, including our volunteer firemen organizations; and

Whereas the Mabou Ceilidh, being celebrated throughout the July 1st weekend, is recognized as the start to our many summer events in Inverness County;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in congratulating the many volunteers who help make these celebrations possible.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

[Page 6123]

RESOLUTION NO. 1941

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Windsor Regional High School Grade 8 student, 12 year old Christian Cole, recently became the youngest ever recipient of the Herbin Bowl at the Annapolis Valley Music Festival; and

Whereas the Herbin Bowl, donated each year by Herbin's Jewellers of Wolfville since 1995, is for the most outstanding performer of the festival; and

Whereas earlier this year, Christian, who plays both the trumpet and piano, also won the Evelene Vogler Prize for his trumpet performance at the Kiwanis Music Festival in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs recognize the tremendous talent of young Christian Cole, while also crediting the direction he has and is receiving from Dr. Bob McCarthy, Mr. Jordan Grigg and Windsor Regional High School Band Directors, Mike Wyman and Ardyth Haley.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1942

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Municipality County of Inverness recently tabled its budget for the 2001-02 fiscal year; and

Whereas Warden A.J. MacDougall, Councillors Ned MacDonald, Jim MacLean, Gloria LeBlanc, Duart McAulay and Daniel Boudreau have all put a great many hours towards preparation of this budget; and

Whereas staff of the municipality also deserve a great deal of credit for this year's budget;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in wishing the municipality all the best for their upcoming year and congratulate them for their continued work towards making Inverness County a better place to live.

[Page 6124]

Mr. Speaker, I will table this.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time being 2:25 a.m. Question Period will conclude at 3:55 a.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

GOV'T. (N.S.) - RULES & TRADITIONS: MLAs - RIGHTS RESPECT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Over the past few days we have seen a desperate Premier break every rule in his way as he attempts to force through Bill No. 68. His government's decision this evening to strip the Opposition of their right to control Opposition Day is an historic infringement on the rights of members of this House. It is sadly fitting that this government would have to use these underhanded techniques to force through a bill that strips collective bargaining rights from Nova Scotians. I want to ask the Premier why he and his government have so little respect for the rules and traditions of this House that they would trample on the rights of MLAs and the people who they are elected to represent?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): The member opposite is aware that the ruling that was given to the House was affirmed by Legislative Counsel on request of a ruling by the Speaker. It was not the government and it was Legislative Counsel that made the ruling. If the member opposite has some complaint about that, then he should register it formally. That is where the ruling came from.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I understand why the Premier is touchy about this, but the Premier is being less than honest if he says his government conducted itself properly this evening. He knows he broke the rules, he broke the traditions that have held for decades. He knows that he did this to ensure faster passage of a piece of legislation that Nova Scotians consider to be unfair and unreasonable. I want to ask the Premier, how can he expect Nova Scotians to respect his government and to respect Bill No. 68 when he has shown so little respect for them?

THE PREMIER: It would be very difficult for Nova Scotians to show respect for that member who shows no respect for the traditions of this House and the rulings of the Legislative Counsel.

[Page 6125]

MR. DEXTER: If the Premier thinks I speak in anger, I do not. I speak only in disappointment. I am disappointed in this Premier's actions. He has shown a disregard for this House and for the people of Nova Scotia that is not fitting for someone holding his office. I suggest that the actions of these past two weeks will not be soon forgotten by Nova Scotians. I want to ask the Premier whether there is any democratic principle, custom or constitutional protection that he intends to respect during the remainder of his time in office?

THE PREMIER: The member embarrasses himself and I see by the look on the faces of his caucus, he has also, by nature of his question, embarrassed them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

HEALTH - STRIKE: CONTINGENCY PLAN - SAFETY

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: My question is for the Premier. From the word go, this Premier said that health and safety was his number one concern. Therefore, he would not allow a strike by health care workers. My question to the Premier is simple, does the Premier still stand by his decision that a health sector strike poses too much of a safety concern for any contingency plan to work?

THE PREMIER: Absolutely. You know, this province has had hospital strikes before. This is not something new. (Interruption) Pardon? Well, the member opposite asks a question and I have here a report of the common front hospital strike of 1981. The other day when I reported to the House, my involvement with a hospital strike, I inadvertently said 1975. There was a strike in 1975, but I was referring to the one in 1981. There was actually a book - and I have a copy of the book here - written about the hospital strike of 1981, which involved the Aberdeen Hospital.

If the member opposite would like I could give him some of the details, because they are written in this book. The strike started on September 24, 1981, and it ended in most hospitals on October 19, 1981, but in two hospitals it continued on for an even longer length of time, one being the hospital in Yarmouth, the other being the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow, a prolonged strike, straddling two months. Therein lies my experience of hospital strikes.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the Premier remembers the strike of 1981. I am sure we will remember, when the book comes out on Bill No. 68, down the road. Yesterday the Premier told nurses he would not withdraw Bill No. 68, no matter the cost, even if pulling the bill would prevent a strike. When asked if he was still concerned with health and safety, the Premier said he had every confidence in the union's contingency plan. My question is simple, why is the Premier changing his position so late in the game?

[Page 6126]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that not only are we dealing with the strike, which we are told, is going to begin at 6:00 a.m. this morning, there are two other groups that will be in a strike position. One has already started a countdown. We are not just talking about the strike which will begin later this morning, we are talking about the potential of other strikes. Certainly, you would not expect the members of this House to go through the kind of legislative process that we are going through this time each and every time there is a potential strike, particularly when it is taking a very long time to get this now back-to-work legislation in place.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the truth is Bill No. 68 is a lousy piece of legislation, and the Premier has lost total control over that situation. The union has said, pull the bill and it won't strike. My question to the Premier is, why won't the Premier do the right thing by pulling Bill No. 68 and calling to end the dispute through binding arbitration?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, does the member opposite have any indication that the NSNU nurses will not go on strike; does the member opposite have any indication that the NSGEU nurses will not go on strike? No, he doesn't. Until he is able to provide the people of Nova Scotia with that kind of assurance, then why is he demanding and insisting that this government allow this province to be plunged into a strike, the nature of which was demonstrated in 1981, and we don't want it to be repeated?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - OPINION POLL: RESULTS - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the government leaked some polling numbers on the health care dispute, but the government didn't leak the whole story. They didn't mention that the poll they commissioned showed that the vast majority of Nova Scotians believe that nurses should have the right to strike. I want to ask the Premier, why did you mislead the public about Nova Scotians' strong belief in the democratic right of nurses to strike? (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I will repeat it.

When the government leaked its polling numbers, it didn't mention that the poll they commissioned showed that the vast majority of Nova Scotians believe that nurses should have the right to strike. I want to ask the Premier, why did you mislead the public about Nova Scotians' strong belief in the democratic rights of nurses to strike?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that to the Minister of Human Resources.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question is very simple. It was not the government that leaked that information, the information got out, I believe, inadvertently. (Interruptions) There was no intent of the government to put that information

[Page 6127]

out, however, the information came out, and we released the report. The information contained in that report was completely innocuous.

MR. DEXTER: It was innocuous, okay. Mr. Speaker, the Premier bought himself a

poll that was supposed to give him the answers he wanted. They used every method of swaying the answers that you can find, and still 65 per cent of Nova Scotians, now that is more than double the number of people who voted for this government, supported the right of nurses to strike, but the Premier never asked Nova Scotians the honest question, if they support taking away the rights of health care workers? The Premier has failed to ask that question on the poll because he knew the answer would be no, and he didn't want to hear it. Why didn't you put an honest question on your survey?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will not go over the old ground as to what information was available to Cabinet. The interesting thing is that the member opposite and the Party opposite, which on many occasions has indicated that the government shouldn't be governing according to polls, is now very much on the other side of the fence and saying that the government should govern by polls.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am getting dizzy from the spin that is coming from the government. It is endless. Even the Premier's favourite line about making nurses the highest paid in Atlantic Canada is off the mark. According to this poll, half of Nova Scotians believe our nurses are as valuable as any in Canada, but the Premier didn't leak that. I want to ask the Premier, in addition to hiding this information from Nova Scotians, did you also hide it from your backbenchers, or are they acting in full knowledge that Nova Scotians have been and are being sold a bill of goods?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, our nurses are as valuable as any in Canada. We would wish to be in the financial position of a province such as Alberta so we could reward them as such, but we have to live in a world of reality. The world of reality is we have very limited financial resources. Even accepting that, we have provided nurses with what will be the highest level of remuneration in Atlantic Canada as a reflection of the value that we place on our nurses.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

PREMIER - NSGEU OFFER: REFUSAL - EXPLAIN

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Today, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union offered you an olive branch, Mr. Premier. You could have avoided the strike set to go in a few hours' time, at 6:00 a.m. this morning. This is the second olive branch that has been offered in the past week. Someone might say that soon the Premier will have enough branches for a tree. My question to the Premier is, why is the

[Page 6128]

Premier jeopardizing the health and safety of Nova Scotians by not accepting the union's offer to stop the strike if, in fact, you kill or you delay Bill No. 68?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that is very simple. If we were not facing an impending strike, there would be no debate here tonight. We would still be in serious negotiations. We have three situations that could result in a strike. We are dealing with one of them with this legislation. That does not suggest that the other two will not, in a very short period of time, present themselves as an equal threat to the health care delivery system. Simply put, until we have assurance that all three situations are under control, then we have no recourse but to proceed.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think I followed those three. Ronald Reagan was described as a great communicator. This Premier will, perhaps, be known as the great rationalizer, as he can make himself believe anything, even that, no, I think I will not use that term. Today, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union gave a chance to you, Mr. Premier, to both stop a strike and to get rid of the less than desirable bill. My question, again, to the Premier is, how is the Premier able to rationalize, to himself, this decision, that is to do nothing and allow the 6:00 a.m. strike of health care workers to take place?

THE PREMIER: The reason I am a little slow getting to my feet is, I am having difficulty with that question. Again, the issue is very simple. If we don't want to have a strike, then obviously we will need this kind of legislation. We are faced with three situations, one of which will culminate - we are being told - at 6:00 a.m., later this morning, in a strike. We have two other situations which will perhaps result in strike action in the very near future and the bill will look after all three eventualities.

DR. SMITH: This strike is solely the responsibility of this government and no one else. Offers were made to avoid it, to avoid all this negative impact of the strike; this government has chosen to ignore them. My question to the Premier is, why will this Premier not kill the bill which would ultimately protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians and, instead, replace it with negotiations at the bargaining table starting at 6:00 a.m today?

THE PREMIER: Very early - I shouldn't say very early on - certainly recently I had indicated that we would be prepared to halt the progress of the bill, if, in fact, we were moving towards resolution, and we are not moving towards resolution. That is why we are proceeding with the bill. We have made a decision as government that it is not in the best interests of the health delivery system for Nova Scotians to have a system that is only 50 per cent operational. We want 100 per cent of the health care system 100 per cent of the time.

[Page 6129]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - CARE WORKERS: PROMISES (PREM.) - CREDIBILITY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Catherine Butler is a new nurse who was a star student at Dalhousie. She received four awards in her final year of study, she was the class president. The Minister of Health met with her last year before graduation. At that meeting the minister told Catherine he was committed to working with nurses, so she chose to stay in Nova Scotia. But that was last year. Catherine said that she is incredibly disappointed by this government's treatment of nurses by this minister and she is even considering leaving the profession. So I want to ask the minister, given the minister's betrayal of Catherine Butler, why should any health care worker believe any of his promises?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I doubt very much if the word "betrayal" is something that Catherine Butler used; that is a spin that is being put on by the Leader of the New Democratic Party. I can tell you that I did meet her. As a matter of fact, she was president I believe of the graduating class at Dalhousie last year. We discussed the future of nursing on at least two occasions, and on the first occasion she had another person who was a class officer with her. I want to tell you that a number of the items that we discussed in our meetings, this government has proceeded with. For example, the nursing strategy which is put in place is addressing a number of the questions for all new nurses who are coming into the system.

MR. DEXTER: When Catherine left school, she took a job as a casual nurse at the IWK-Grace, but working conditions were so bad she left. Catherine says that she would rather leave nursing than go back to working in a hospital. Like so many other new nurses, she gave this government one year to fulfill its promises and it failed. Faced with the loss of some of our best new nurses, how can the Premier deny that his nursing strategy is failing?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: On the contrary, our nursing strategy is succeeding and I will remind him when he insults the nursing strategy he is insulting those who put it together, which were nurses in this province, members of the NSGEU, NSNU and other things. It was a strategy which was produced by nurses, for nurses, and endorsed very warmly and supported by nurses.

MR. DEXTER: Catherine Butler has some expert advice for the Premier. She says, if he truly wants to recruit and retain nurses, that he should do two things - reduce overtime and reduce patient loads. Catherine doesn't want to leave the province or the profession, but if the Premier doesn't take her advice, come January she will be applying to law school. How can the Premier not be ashamed of a government that would drive a great nurse like Catherine Butler out of the profession in just one year?

[Page 6130]

[2:45 a.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that Catherine Butler has really hit the nail on the head, because the overload and the overtime and the excessive call-backs are at the core of the workplace problems that nurses are forced to deal with on a regular basis. On the other hand, the minister has explained, rather well, that the nursing strategy is designed to address those issues directly. Those are not issues that will be directly addressed by the contract negotiations that are going on now.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

PREMIER - CORP. RESEARCH: POLL - INSTRUCTIONS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, on Sunday evening, staff at the Premier's Office was informed that someone had successfully leaked to the press a copy of a poll that the government had done. The questions were identical to the messages that the government wouldn't roll out for another month, yet the government would deny that this treatment was planned, that it was the result of not being able to trust nurses to ensure their patients' care during a strike. Obviously, for a long period of time the government knew that they had no intention of bargaining in good faith with nurses.

Last evening I asked the Premier to report to this Legislature the name of the person who instructed that questions on the nursing strike be added to the government's CRA poll. Although the Premier's staff had known of the poll for a full day, the Premier, last night, was either unaware of the name or unwilling to produce it. With an additional 24 hours to produce that name, I ask the Premier, again, to tell this House exactly who instructed that the nurses' strike questions be added to that poll?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right, he is entitled to that kind of information by way of direct questioning. I don't have the information yet. We have been rather busy in this place over the last 24 hours. There is no reason why the member opposite couldn't have that information. It will come along.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am wondering why the Premier is so evasive on this issue, when it comes to telling the House what is going on. Anyone who has spent any time in this House knows that the Premier takes his personal reputation very seriously and, as a result, is a master of rationalizing the truth. So, again, to the Premier, is this unwillingness to give the answer to this question because, perhaps, you are protecting someone in your own office, Mr. Premier, yes or no?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I clearly remember the member opposite asking the question. What we are trying to sort out over here is if he had asked the question to this member or to the minister. Again, we will provide the member opposite with the answer.

[Page 6131]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, obviously my question is when? When is it going to be done, because this is about the third time that I have asked the Premier, not anyone else, to tell the House who it was that ordered that polling be conducted? We are now well into third reading of this bill, if the Health Minister knows then he can get up and tell us who it is. I am asking the Premier, again, to table the name of the person who instructed those questions be added, before the end of business today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Human Resources.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, actually, I did ask the department for the answer, whenever it was, yesterday I guess. They have gotten back to me with some information, but it wasn't the information that I wanted. This information refers to Corporate Research Associates polls that have been conducted at government expense by the New Democratic Party and by the Liberal Party from their caucus funds. That wasn't exactly (interruptions) Obviously, they don't want the answer, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

HEALTH - NURSES' STRIKE (1975):

PREMIER - EXPERIENCE EXPLAIN

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor.

MR. DEVEAUX: My question is for the Premier. The Premier has argued that Bill No. 68 is a result of the lessons he learned from the nurses' strike of 1975. He has talked about this continuously since he introduced this bill. In speeches he has referred to his own tragic, personal experiences to his suffering patients. It is interesting though that there was no nurses' strike at the Aberdeen Hospital in 1975. So my question to the Premier is, will the Premier tell us exactly what the nature of his personal experience was with the nurses' strike in 1975?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I had earlier said that while there was a strike in 1975, the one to which I was relating or referring to was the hospital strike of 1981 and 24 hospitals in Nova Scotia were on strike at that time. As a matter of fact and as I had indicated earlier to another member of the House, it was such a serious event that it ended up being the topic of a book. I happen to have a copy of the book here. Some of the details were - yes, the Aberdeen was involved - the strike began on September 24th and it ended in 22 of the 24 hospitals on October 19th but two hospitals continued in a strike situation for some continual time after that and finally ended at the Aberdeen as well.

[Page 6132]

MR. DEVEAUX: It made such an indelible mark on the Premier that he can't even remember what year the actual strike occurred. Six years difference. Maybe I could see 1975, 1976, but 1975 to 1981 is a pretty big difference in the Premier's life. He is smiling over there, but this is a serious issue. The Premier referred time and time again, in 1975, to health care workers being pitted against health care workers, but he doesn't mention that the nurses continued to provide emergency services without pay during the 1975 strike to the 12 affected hospitals. He doesn't mention the newspaper stories about co-operation between the nurses and the hospitals to deliver those emergency services. So I want to ask the Premier if the 1975 strike taught him anything? It should have taught him that he can trust nurses to deliver emergency services when they say they will do that. I want to ask the Premier, why did you fail to learn that from the 1975 strike?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the reason being, in the 1975 strike, the Aberdeen wasn't on strike. It was on strike in 1981 and it was a long strike and I had an opportunity - because that is 20 years ago and it is not something that I necessarily think about every day - to call some colleagues who were actually working with me in the hospital in 1981. We had an opportunity to reflect on the kind of patient care that was delivered at that time. There was a consensus that the hospital, which normally had over 200 beds and at that point operating with 65 beds on an emergency situation, simply wasn't providing for our community the kind of care that normally was available.

MR. DEVEAUX: I assume that the Premier has been referring to some form of article or something. I assume he is going to table that in the House as well.

The other thing the Premier is loath to mention about the 1975 strike - and I would hope anyone who is a Premier of this province or a politician would learn a lesson from it - is that the nurses, in the end, were not legislated back to work in 1975, and there was no effort to bring in back-to-work legislation before the nurses were in a legal strike position.

My question to the Premier is, the government went back to the table in 1975, and they reached an agreement that ended that strike without having to impose legislation, why doesn't this Premier take a lesson from that episode in history and kill Bill No. 68, and go back to the table and negotiate fair and square with the nurses and health care workers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this would be much easier if the member opposite could talk about the strike I am talking about. He is talking about the 1975 strike, and I am talking about the 1981 strike. (Interruptions)

[Page 6133]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - OPINION POLL (IPSOS. REID): RESULTS - ACCURACY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. We have seen in recent days the faith that this government has placed in polling information. Results from polls seem to dictate how the Premier governs this province. Today, we have seen more recent information from a poll commissioned by a national polling firm, Ipsos-Reid. My question to the Premier is, given that this more recent poll was conducted from June 22nd to June 24th of this year, would this Premier admit that the data from this poll would be much more reflective of the opinions of the people of Nova Scotia than his May 18th poll? I would like to table that poll.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite just tabled the poll, and I am quite prepared to have a look at the poll. It is very difficult to respond, having just received it.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, well, they were being distributed outside the door this morning. I do apologize, seriously, to the Premier. I thought that he would have been briefed on that poll earlier today. It was put out by the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. For the Premier's benefit, I will say that the results of this recent poll were quite staggering. The poll indicates that 89 per cent of Nova Scotians say that they trust nurses to provide emergency service while on strike, almost 90 per cent. This Premier and his government no longer represent the will of those who have elected them. My question to the Premier is, given that the average Nova Scotian trusts nurses, why does this Premier, himself, have such distrust for nurses?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this member and, as I would anticipate, all members of the House have great respect for nurses, but that is not the issue. The issue is when you have a strike, you don't have full service. When you have a strike, you have a partial service. When you have a strike, many things don't get done. If the strike goes on for a long period of time, many things don't get done for a long period of time. That member seems to think it is all right; this government doesn't think it is all right.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 is all about a lack of trust, pure and simple, a lack of trust. Given all the hours of debate and given the Premier's fondness for governing by polls, I am very honoured to be able to present him with yet another poll, a more recent poll that was actually done just a few days ago, June 22nd to June 24th, much more recent, over a month more recent than his poll, as we call it on this side of the House, the Premier's poll or research. My question to the Premier is, given that 89 per cent of Nova Scotian believe that nurses would not be a threat to their own health and safety, will the Premier finally do the right thing, kill Bill No. 68 and get back to the bargaining table, so we may avoid a strike at 6:00 a.m., three hours away, this morning for our health care personnel who don't want to be on the picket line?

[Page 6134]

[3:00 a.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, actually two questions. Are we prepared to go back to the bargaining table? Yes, we are. On short notice, we can be there within an hour, on request. The other thing is the Opposition Party criticized the government, when they make the accusation that we are governing by polls, and here we have the Opposition Party governing itself by polls.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

HEALTH - BILL NO. 68: RADIATION THERAPISTS - EFFECTS

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct a question (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions)

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I can wait. I can wait, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I think the member for Lunenburg West is making a good point, if he would like to continue. (Interruptions) All right.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. The last hours of the debate and, in fact, three hours from the strike deadline. I have a letter here that I am going to table when I am through with it. It is from eight doctors at the QE II Health Sciences Centre urging the government to increase wages for radiation therapists. These doctors know what this Premier doesn't seem to know. I will quote from the letter where they say that radiation therapists provide an essential service and have a unique role in cancer care that is irreplaceable. Patients and doctors keep telling the Premier the same thing, abandon Bill No. 68 because it is driving away health care workers, but he refuses to listen. I want to ask the Premier, why is he pursuing legislation that will drive badly-needed radiation therapists right out of this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I assume it is a copy of the same letter which I received last week. I don't think that particular letter mentioned Bill No. 68. What it did mention was that they asked that radiation therapists and other therapists be singled out because of special qualifications, to see if there couldn't be a better compensation package put together for them, if that is the same letter.

[Page 6135]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am going to, again, direct this question to the Premier. It was a letter directed to the Minister of Health but it was copied to the Premier. It is the Premier, in defending the introduction of Bill No. 68, who has said that they have given nurses and technologists, such as radiation therapists, a good enough wage increase, but these doctors and others are saying it is simply not good enough. These oncologists say that they are concerned that if this province's low wages and poor working conditions do not improve there may be "a negative impact on cancer care". I want to ask the Premier, why is he insistent on taking action that experts say will have a negative impact on cancer care in this province?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, that letter was written by people, and what they were doing was (Interruptions) they were supporting others that they worked with. I can tell you, it is not unusual to get those letters, and I appreciate them. As a matter of fact, it is very difficult to disagree with the points that they made in that letter. It is like the poll that the honourable member referred to earlier, I saw that last night, it was presented to me. It is very difficult. I really don't dispute much of what is in that poll, basically, I know that it is accurate. What we are dealing with, which the group across the House refers to, is we are dealing (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to return to the Premier. To the Premier, the Minister of Health and I agree that there is a serious problem in the Province of Nova Scotia in terms of the level of wages paid to medical technologists, paid to nurses, paid to other health care professionals, and Bill No. 68 is going to help drive those people out of this province. I want to ask the Premier, why doesn't he start listening to the experts, start listening to the people who have been writing, the people who are protesting on the streets, the Minister of Health and me, and kill Bill No. 68 once and for all, and do something right about health care in the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings some good points. We wish we could remunerate our radiation therapists and all our health care professionals to the level of remuneration that is available in Alberta, but we don't have a $7 billion surplus, we have a $91 million deficit in this province. We must continue down the road to fiscal responsibility. We need a health care system that is not only sustainable today, is sustainable tomorrow and sustainable in the weeks and the months ahead. In order to do that we have to have a solution that is affordable in Nova Scotia.

[Page 6136]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

HEALTH - STRIKE CONTINGENCY PLAN:

CAP. HEALTH DIST. - RESPONSE EXPLAIN

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. I want to table a story from The Chronicle-Herald, from March 18, 1998, if there is anybody around to take it. Thank you very much, Gordon, I knew you would be good for something in here. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. (Interruptions)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Finally found something useful for the Minister of Economic Development to do.

Mr. Speaker, IWK CEO, Rick Nurse, indicated that a contingency plan implemented five days before a possible strike was not yet necessary. In fact, he said, "To act too soon is to say we've lost faith in the collective bargaining process and we're certainly not there yet." My question to the Premier is, why did the Capital Health District lose faith in the bargaining process 14 days before any possible strike?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there is a great difference between the two institutions, both fine institutions. Among other things, they are staffed by different unions, which had a different thing, as you remember, as the honourable member would know, (Interruptions) they are staffed by different units, they provide different services and the scope of services is substantially different.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we are playing some kind of game here. We ask the question, then we have to figure out what the answer is and that usually changes from minute to minute. My first supplementary is, again, to the Premier. In the same story, a mere five days before any possible job action, it says that the IWK continued elective surgery and emergency procedures. Current contingency planning at the Capital Health District seems designed to fit with the government agenda, rather than any health concerns. My question, again, to the Premier is, how can health care workers have any faith in negotiations when the Capital Health District has no faith in them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the IWK has not yet been faced with job action, although there was, yesterday, like some other places, by some of the other unions, not those that are in a strike position, did do some things and they were able to carry on as normal. To ask why

[Page 6137]

they are still operating five days in advance of a job action, which is not going to occur in five days, I think he has to rethink his question.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't have to rethink any question, what that minister has to do is start answering some of the questions. We have seen very little of that going on here in any questions that have either been asked of him or referred to him. My final supplementary is, again, to the Premier. This is not about safety and the Premier knows it, it is about money, plain and simple. The contingency plan has become a hammer to use against the health care workers, as if they didn't have enough stacked against them already. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier explain to the House why the contingency plan is being used as a blunt object against health workers rather than a plan designed to protect public safety?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite seems to have taken the position that he feels that strikes are okay in the public sector, in the health care sector, that it is okay for hospitals to be on strike. It is okay for 50 per cent of the service to be delivered to Nova Scotians for a prolonged period of time; it is okay for lab tests to be cancelled; it is okay for MRIs to be cancelled; it is okay for surgeries to be cancelled; and it is okay for admissions to hospital for medical conditions to be cancelled. But that is not the position of this government. Nova Scotians have a right to 100 per cent of the health care system 100 per cent of the time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

HEALTH - CARE SYSTEM: CHAOS - RESPONSIBILITY

MR. FRANK CORBETT: At the QE II, all day surgeries have been cancelled. Lab testing and diagnostic imaging will be available for emergencies only, and occupational therapy has been cancelled. All thanks to that Premier. Bill No. 68 does not guarantee the delivery of the health care system; it is just the opposite, it jeopardizes it. My question to that Premier is, how can you not be ashamed of yourself and your government for attacking the rights of health care workers and throwing the health care system into chaos?

THE PREMIER: If we had our preferences, we would still be negotiating. We would be talking with health care workers. We had three agreements with the union - two with one and one with the second union, and we believed by bargaining in good faith and providing what we thought were relatively attractive offers that we would avoid all of this. But we didn't avoid it and we are heading down the road at 6:00 a.m. today for a strike. That is why we are here tonight.

MR. CORBETT: He just doesn't get it. Mr. Speaker, 2,900 health care workers go on strike at 6:00 a.m. today. They will be joined by another 2,000 nurses. Premier, you could prevent this. You can still call it all off; the union offered today to cancel the strike if you would just withdraw Bill No. 68. You and you alone can do that. No more hogwash about

[Page 6138]

other bargaining units, you put them in this, it is your responsibility, and you bear the consequences for what happens after 6:00 a.m. today; it is on your shoulders. I want to ask you, Premier - there is no one to blame but yourself for the health care system's strike - Dr. Hamm, why are you doing it, why are you forcing this conflict and disregarding the health risks to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: We had three tentative agreements with the unions. One with one union, two with the other. We went at this attempting - and believing we could - solve it at the negotiation table, which is where we want it solved. That didn't work; that now is history. Now we are in an immediate pre-strike situation and that is why we are here tonight, to make that strike as short as possible.

MR. CORBETT: That Premier acts like a little child. It is everybody's fault but his. He undermined the process two weeks ago when they were in trying to get a collective agreement in mediation and you put this piece of garbage on the table. It is your fault, Premier. Don't blame anybody else. Don't blame the unions. Look in the mirror, for God's sake, take some responsibility. You run the province; you are the one who is putting it to these workers. You are the one that is putting it there. You, as a doctor, should know this, so how can you not see your reckless actions are a violation to your own Hippocratic oath?

THE PREMIER: I don't believe that we should have strikes in the health care sector. That comes from some bitter experience. I think it comes from looking at the chaos that we have seen in other provinces that have had strikes in their hospitals, health care strikes. It has not only been in Nova Scotia where we have had these experiences. Where there have been strikes in other jurisdictions, they have had back-to-work legislation because they as well found out that strikes don't allow, in the health care system, the system to deliver the kind of care that Canadians want and should have a right to expect.

[3:15 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

HEALTH - HANTS COMMUN. HOSP.:

CLOSURE (26-06-01) - EXPLAIN

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. In reviewing press releases from the Capital Health District Authority, I stumbled upon a very puzzling public service announcement. Apparently, the Hants Community Hospital was closed yesterday. All outpatient clinics were closed, all labs were closed. This was not a closure due to a work stoppage, this was a planned closure as of Monday afternoon. My question is, why are you allowing entire health care facilities to close prior to the June 27th strike?

[Page 6139]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, there was some job action at a number of sites which did cause facilities to alter their regular plans. I don't have the detailed answer to that. I could get it, but I don't have it with me tonight.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is responsible for the delivery of health care in Nova Scotia and not the district health authorities. Something funny is happening here. This government is using this closure to try and build up frustrations in Windsor in order to gain even a little support for this draconian piece of legislation - that is plain and simple. My question to the Minister of Health is, will the minister commit to this House that if labour relations return to normal, all services at the Hants Community Hospital will be restored?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I must say that I take great offense to the insinuation or actually, the statement he made in the first sentence of his question. I think that is reprehensible and he should apologize to the good people of Nova Scotia for making it.

Secondly, the level of question and comments that is coming from the Opposition recently does nothing to enhance the reputation of anybody in this House and I wish they would raise the level. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, as he knows, the Capital District Health Authority is responsible for the operation of that facility and those decisions would be made by it.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, there is one thing that I am not going to do for this Minister of Health or this Tory Government is to apologize to the people of Nova Scotia for this government bringing Bill No. 68 to the floor of the House. I am not going to apologize to this Minister of Health. It is a common practice for anti-labour, private sector employers to use strikes as an excuse to permanently close operations. My question to the minister is, will the minister ensure that this is not the case with the Hants Community Hospital?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again, I can say that the operation of that hospital is under the jurisdiction of the Capital District Health Authority, but as far as me, as the Minister of Health is concerned, am I going to use the pending strike or a strike to reduce services any place? The answer is no.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH - SURGERIES: CANCELLATIONS - REASONS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier stood in this House and told us that over 100 surgeries have been cancelled in Nova Scotia because of the threat of a strike. That happened to be in the minister's remarks of June 25th before the Committee of the Whole House and I will table those remarks. Every day the CEO of the CDHA updates the media on the numbers of cancelled surgeries because of the threat of a strike. What neither of them

[Page 6140]

has told us is that the cancellation of elective surgery is a fact of life in this province regardless of labour disputes. My question for the Premier is, will you come clean with Nova Scotians and admit that surgeries have been cancelled every day in every community in this province since you were elected?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I can't confirm that, but the honourable member is right. On too many occasions, one is too many where surgeries are cancelled for a variety of reasons. Of course, this is one of the reasons that Bill No. 68 has been introduced, to prevent a great escalation of that. What I can tell him is that in the Capital District Health Authority, as of yesterday, there were 203 surgeries that had been delayed in this period, 44 of those were of types that people would certainly like to get done. I can also tell the honourable member that yesterday in the Capital District Health Authority, there were cancellations of some procedures and surgeries due, directly, to an illegal walk-out.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier was talking about 106 cancelled surgeries in the entire province. I am talking about just one hospital in the Capital District Health Authority. At the QE II Health Sciences Centre alone there were 115 elective surgeries cancelled last month. In fact, in the first five months of this year, there have been 533 cancelled surgeries at the QE II Health Sciences Centre. I will table, once again, the Capital District Health Authority's surgical cancellation rates for the QE II Health Sciences Centre.

Mr. Speaker, to the Premier, why is it that you don't feel the need to stand in this House and express your concerns about the hundreds of people who have surgeries cancelled every single month in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am entirely indebted to the member for Dartmouth North who has really brought it to a head. That is exactly why. If we have those kinds of cancellations with 100 per cent of the service, just think of the cancellations we are going to have with 50 per cent of the service.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that is a result of this government's actions since it has taken office in 1999, and not a result of those individuals who work in the health care services of this province. It is never acceptable to be cancelling surgeries for many reasons that are considered to be necessary for patients and doctors, but it is a sad reality in this province. To suggest that the cancellation of 106 surgeries in this province is an unusual occurrence due to the threat of a strike is misleading, by that Premier. I want to ask the Premier, how can you, in good conscience, stand in this House and use the unfortunate circumstances of surgery cancellation to justify Bill No. 68?

[Page 6141]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there may be members in the House who understood what that question was. Earlier on, the member opposite was talking about the number of cancellations under normal circumstances, and indicating that that was not satisfactory, and the member is absolutely right. But those numbers will grow and they will grow dramatically under a strike situation. The member opposite knows that if workers have a right to go on strike, they have a right to go on strike for an indefinite period. Is the member opposite suggesting that Nova Scotians should be exposed to a prolonged hospital strike? I think not.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

HEALTH - CAP. DIST. HEALTH AUTH.:

SURGERIES - CANCELLATIONS EXPLAIN

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Capital District Health Authority has spent the last 14 days closing some 412 beds and cancelling 203 surgeries, including cancer surgeries. OR staff have been sitting on their hands, as it were, while this government has gone on to a war against health care workers. Yesterday, the Capital District Health Authority announced cancer surgeries would resume because of a provision of services by NSGEU. Ironically, the same day that 2,900 workers will walk out on strike, surgeries will resume. All the while, over the last 14 days, everything else has been closed. My question to the Premier is, could the Premier, perhaps, explain why surgeries have been cancelled when people were working and now that employees have walked off the job surgeries are starting up again?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are two things, I guess, to answer that question. One is that the re-opening of those operating theatres was under the assumption that

Bill No. 68 would be passed and therefore there would be no strike. Secondly - I will just pass this along as sort of an aside - the contingency plan, which has been referred to in here on a number of occasions this evening and others, with the health care workers going out, it was contingent upon a lot of the services being carried out by the nursing staff. If the nursing staff participates in an illegal walkout, as was indicated earlier today, it is going to throw the whole thing into chaos.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I will go back to the Premier. The chaos will be at the feet of that government, for Bill No. 68, and nobody else. Since Bill No. 68 was introduced, this Premier and Health Minister have been saying that they can't trust health care workers to provide essential services. The Premier has created a crisis based on polls instead of sound public policy. Cabinet saw the polls long before any publicly perceived labour troubles in this province. First, the government stance was based on public safety, now it is all about money. Why has the Premier created a red herring by saying it was the strike that jeopardized service when, clearly, contingency plans have done more damage than anything else?

[Page 6142]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has heard a lot of the questions that have been asked tonight. He has heard the answers. He has heard members of the Opposition Parties indicate and particularly the member opposite, who indicated all of the procedures that he is aware of that are cancelled. The member opposite must realize that this kind of a procedure results in a lot of Nova Scotians being denied care. We are simply not prepared to allow that to continue to happen over a prolonged period of time. It is very simple.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is only a few hours away from the strike, and maybe the Premier is preoccupied and not paying attention. The reality is there is more activity going to happen with surgeries as we speak than there were under their contingency plan when they shut it down to force pressure on the health care workers and the public of Nova Scotia against nurses and health care workers.

My final supplementary to the Premier is, Mr. Premier, I find this particular approach disappointing from a professional point of view. As Premier and as a doctor yourself, why won't the Premier put the negotiations back on sound footing instead of engaging in dangerous games with public safety, and cancel Bill No. 68, and go to the table honestly and earnestly to resolve this problem?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is urging us to go back into negotiations. I would remind the member opposite that he has on many occasions over the last several weeks chastised the government for not coming in earlier with a balanced budget, implying that we have spent too much already in health care and education and other programs. We put $69 million of new money in the operational budget. We have put, before the health care workers, a raise that over three years is the equivalent of $100 million or $30 million a year.

Now, if we did exactly as the member opposite suggested, we could have a balanced budget because we have a $91 million deficit, which would mean if we didn't put any operational money, if we didn't put the $69 million into health, if we didn't give, this year, the health care workers the $30 million, we would have the balanced budget, which that member opposite has been encouraging us to do for several weeks. Just think of the chaos if, in fact, we followed the advice of that member. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

HEALTH - FOIPOP (DHAs BUDGET/PLANS):

RELEASE VIOLATION - EXPLAIN

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Minister of Health. On May 15th our office applied, under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, for the budgets and the business plans for each of the district

[Page 6143]

health authorities. It shouldn't be a surprise to you or other members of this House that the department failed to respond to the request within the time frame allowed by the Act, and have been delaying ever since, failing to provide us with the information; in effect what they are doing is breaking the Act and breaking the law.

I want to ask the Minister of Health, would he explain why his department has violated the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and withheld this information which is critical to the debate, here in this House, about the future of the health care system?

[3:30 a.m.]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I had heard today that one of the people who had put in a request had also written to the commissioner about the delay. The delay was quite simple, in providing the information, we did receive the plans, providing the department responded to some of them. On the other hand, the response meant, as the honourable member knows, that right now there have been some other elements in the health care system which have occupied a lot of the time of people in the health authorities as well as the department. A number of things that have gone back have required further discussion.

To be quite frank, there were two things. One, is that some of them required further discussion with the department, and if the discussion doesn't take place then you are not going to get the answer you want nor is the district health authority. Secondly, it would be appropriate for the district health authorities to have the opportunity to discuss those business plans as returned with their staff and, quite frankly, they haven't had the opportunity to do it. To get it into the public domain before that is done is just not sensible.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I don't know exactly what that response was all about. The fact is that there is law affecting when the department has to respond to a freedom of information request, and they are breaking the law when they fail to respond to these information requests. It is not about whether they are having discussions or whether they have time to do the photocopying, the fact is the request has been made and they are required by law, under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, to respond and to respond in full.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Health, quite simply, what is it that he is trying to hide? Is there something in the budgets, in the business plans of the district health authorities that you don't want us to know about? Is that the real reason?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the business planning process has not been finalized, and it would be inappropriate, I think, and unfair to put those documents in the public domain until they have been finalized with the district health authorities.

[Page 6144]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Now, there is quite an admission, isn't it? Here we are at the end of June and the minister has just confirmed that his department has failed to approve the budgets, the business plans for the district health authorities. Isn't that some kind of an admission from the minister responsible?

Mr. Speaker, keeping secrets from the public is a sign that a government is failing. I want to ask the minister, will he explain to Nova Scotians why they should have any confidence whatsoever in his ability to manage the health care system in this province, when he is hiding secrets, when he is failing to make decisions about budgets and business plans, and when he is failing to take his responsibilities seriously? Is it not the case that he is letting Nova Scotians down once again?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, I think the business planning process, with accountabilities built in, is the best that it has ever been in this province in recent years. I will tell you that the measures that the department has taken in conjunction with the district health authorities, in terms of accountabilities and appropriate practice in the district health authorities, including best practices, the health care system is moving ahead. I just wish he would join instead of trying to throw obstacles in front all the time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

HEALTH - CONTINGENCY PLAN: FAST-TRACKING - DETAILS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is also to the Minister of Health. Contingency plans, as released by the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, for DHA 7 have revealed some interesting points. Plans for the Guysborough Hospital include a plan to fast-track all in-patients into long-term care facilities. My question to the minister is, if fast-tracking patients into long-term care facilities is possible as part of the contingency plan, why haven't these patients already been discharged?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, some of the contingency plans involve moving patients from one facility to another, to long-term care. Obviously, the answer to that, clearly, if they can be discharged, we are working on that as quickly as we can. The other thing is that we are not in the strike position there, but the contingency plan would apply. For the honourable member, there would be people moved into those because they could not be cared for in the hospital, and it would be without, in some cases, the appropriate classification, it would be a temporary move rather than a permanent one.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I guess our job is to figure that out. I have no idea what he just said there, but I will pursue this a little bit further. The Minister of Health's government has punished patients by charging $50 a day to stay in hospital beds while waiting to get into long-term care facilities, and now on the eve of a crisis he has created, he can fast-track patients into long-term care facilities. This is unacceptable. My

[Page 6145]

question to the minister, again, is, what has gone so wrong in his so-called health care plan that he is unable to manage the health care system so that Nova Scotians receive the level of care in the appropriate health care setting?

MR. MUIR: Let's go back to the first question. I would like to remind the honourable member, and perhaps he doesn't know about the capacity of the Guysborough Memorial Hospital for in-patients, it is not a great number. The second question that he asked, we are working on that. The single-entry access is proving very valuable. Similarly, we have put a classification system in for all people going into long-term care, back on the first of February. There were some bugs in that because of the effectiveness of what we were doing, and fortunately, we have made some adjustments in processes, and hopefully the delays to which the honourable member is referring will soon be eliminated, if they are not already.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, maybe this is one of those constituencies that they have already written off, so what happens down in Guysborough with the hospital is of little importance to the government. I think they have figured where the important areas are, that are salvageable, but as days go on, perhaps, they are going to be a lot fewer than they were prior to this sitting of the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot about the clinical footprint, and now it is a planning guide. My question, my final supplementary, to the minister is - and hopefully we can get a straight answer here, I would appreciate that - would the minister please state whether the Guysborough hospital will be providing the same services in the future as it is today?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would expect that Guysborough Memorial Hospital will continue to provide appropriate service to meet the needs of the residents, but I can't predict what is going to happen in three years or five years or 20 years. If he is asking what is going to happen next year, the answer is yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

GOV'T. (N.S.) - BILL NO. 68: FREE VOTE - POLICY

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this Premier waxes poetically sometimes about free speech or free votes in this House. Yet, the honourable members for Kings West and Kings North were absent for the second reading of Bill No. 68, and were also missing the vote by the Committee of the Whole. I don't suppose they are with the group of faithful Tories today who paid $500 at a fundraising golf tournament for you, Mr. Premier. But both men admitted they have concerns about Bill No. 68, and one said they weren't the only ones in caucus with those questions.

[Page 6146]

The final vote on this legislation is just hours away, but Premier, you are still bullying your colleagues into supporting this bill, and you should be ashamed of yourself. Will the Premier prevent the government members from voting on Bill No. 68 according to their conscience or not?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this caucus considers this a very serious issue. We realize that the strike situation will create, for Nova Scotians, an unacceptable level of health care and we are here to prevent that and we are here to prevent that as a group.

MR. CORBETT: The Premier tells us that he is confident this bill is the right thing for Nova Scotians. He tells us it is an essential part of his government's agenda. But those words, Mr. Premier, ring hollow outside this Chamber and quite frankly, they ring hollow within this Chamber. So, Premier, if you are so confident that Bill No. 68 is good legislation, why don't you trust your caucus and let them vote freely, according to their conscience?

THE PREMIER: The member for Cape Breton Centre would appear that he supports a strike. I would find it incomprehensible that all members of the Opposition Parties would support a strike, particularly when there is so much evidence of how Nova Scotians will be denied health care with 50 per cent of the service available. I would hope that on the Opposition benches, there are individuals who will not want to put their constituents through a strike situation and will be prepared to support the government on Bill No. 68.

MR. CORBETT: That is a vile answer from a vile man. This government was elected on promises to protect health care. Bill No. 68 doesn't protect health care - all it does is protect the Premier's vague promise of a tax cut with his tattered hopes for re-election and they are blowing in the wind right now. I challenge this Premier once and for all to have the courage of his convictions. If you believe that this is good legislation, if you believe that this is going to help health care, allow your backbenchers to vote freely. Will you allow them to do that?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite, in his question, gave me the answer. Yes, we did make a commitment to protect health care, to protect health care every day, every single day, that Nova Scotians every single day will have 100 per cent of the system available when they need it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

HEALTH - NORTHSIDE GEN. HOSP.:

SWITCHBOARD CLOSURE - EXPLAIN

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. This minister has closed down the switchboard at Northside General Hospital from 12:00 midnight to 7:00 a.m. This, despite a promise that was made during the recent by-election

[Page 6147]

campaign in Cape Breton North. My question to the minister, given that he promised the people of Cape Breton North that he would protect their hospital, why is this minister threatening the health and safety of the residents of the Northside by delaying emergency staff from responding?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I will take the honourable member at his word that that decision has been made and I take it you are telling me the switchboard is closed now. What the decisions are being made now on - which he probably wouldn't understand - is evidence of best practice. If that switchboard is being closed down, it is because the service can operate without it.

MR. BOUDREAU: What is more important is that the good people of Cape Breton North understand. That is the main thing. Nurses from across Nova Scotia can move to Alberta, get a $10,000 signing bonus, sign the contract and earn $10 to $12 per hour more. In Nova Scotia, a nurse who chooses to come here gets a mere $1,500 and is hired as a casual. My question to the minister is, what will the minister do to ensure that nurses stay here in Nova Scotia instead of heading for greener pastures?

MR. MUIR: One of the things we have done and which has been tabled here on a number of occasions is the Nova Scotia Nursing Strategy. The honourable member for down there, Dartmouth-Cole Harbour or Eastern Passage, or whatever it is, is telling me he has no regard for the nurses and the other health care professionals who put this document together. I hope you would stand up and tell the nurses and the people who worked so hard on that, including one of the vice-presidents of the NSGEU nurses' association, whose picture happens to be on the cover.

[3:45 a.m.]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the recruitment of nurses in a rural community is even more difficult than recruiting for an urban area, given that this minister has ruined any opportunity for a nurse to find Nova Scotia an attractive place to work. My question is, will the minister please table his rural incentive strategy for nurses?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I believe the honourable member has a copy of this particular document, and I would be pleased to table one and give one to him, where some of those things are more fully explained.

[Page 6148]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - CAP. DIST. HEALTH AUTH.:

NURSING VACANCIES - BILL NO. 68 EFFECT

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. In a letter to the Minister of Health, the CEO of the Capital District Health Authority said that there are presently 160 vacant nursing positions in this district alone. Thanks to Bill No. 68, I suspect that that number will increase daily. Hospital personnel have confirmed that many of those 160 positions have been vacant for a very long time. I would like the Premier to explain how many of those nursing positions he really thinks are going to be filled after his pathological obstinacy on Bill No. 68?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the question from the honourable member for Halifax Needham is one which we have had the opportunity to answer many times in this House. One thing that this government has done and we cannot be faulted for is the work that we have done with the nursing profession to try to meet some of their needs, their workplace conditions, the commitment that we have made to it. Clearly, what the honourable member has indicated, that there are vacancies and, of course, she said many of them have them been well in advance of Bill No. 68, and that is the case. We will continue to work with the profession to improve the conditions. We have added 75 seats to the nursing program, as more people come out of the nursing program, we have incentives for people to stay in Nova Scotia, we have incentives for people to come back to Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is a very good place to practice nursing, and we think people will stay and more people will come.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, this minister is not kidding anybody, in terms of working with the nursing profession. There is a job line at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, where a recording is available of the present job openings in the Capital Health District. Today's recording lists 26 permanent positions and 6 casual positions, a total of 32 positions. That means 128 vacant nursing positions are not being advertised on the job line. I would like the Premier to explain, if there are 160 vacancies, why are you only advertising 32 of them on the job line?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I believe the honourable member said there were 26 full-time and certain part-time. A lot of the positions, indeed, here in the metro area in particular are filled by casuals, and that is the way the system works. (Interruptions) I want to tell you, to be quite frank, I asked about this, and I have been told about this, a lot of people prefer to work casually. (Interruptions)

[Page 6149]

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh, hah!

AN HON. MEMBER: By choice.

MR. MUIR: Yes, by choice. That is how the system works. He might not like that answer, but that is true.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't know where in the name of God, this minister has been for the last week and a half. (Applause) These vacancies are not being filled by casual people, they are being filled by forced overtime of the nurses. They have been telling us that for a week and a half. The Capital District Health Authority also has job postings on the Internet. The Internet site has 54 nursing positions listed. That is more than the job line, but it is still considerably less than the 160 vacancies. This is a site accessible to any nurse in the world who may be interested in coming to this province, yet a mere fraction of the available positions are listed. I want to ask the Premier to tell us, is it possible that he is keeping positions vacant in order to reduce spending?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax Needham has given me some information, to be quite frank, I didn't know tonight. The actual specifics of her question should be directed to the Capital District Health Authority, who is responsible for operating, and it obviously put the ads on there and it was also the CEO who made the statement.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

LBR. - COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT:

NEGOTIATION - POLICY EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Labour. The national spotlight, unfortunately, not too long from now will be on Nova Scotia. If you look throughout the country, no government in Canada has gone as far as this government in destroying labour relations. Ontario bills, such as the Ambulance Services Collective Bargaining Act, were seen as draconian. That bill allowed the government to not only impose arbitration but allowed it to choose arbitrators. Well, Bill No. 68 makes the Ontario bill seem progressive. At least that bill allowed for some kind of arbitration. I would like to ask the minister, why is he allowing for a government to dictate a collective agreement rather than negotiating one?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for allowing me to get up and once again reiterate that there is nothing in this bill that prevents the ongoing collective bargaining process; in fact, we hope that it will continue and we encourage this. The best way to reach a sustainable agreement is at the table. However, as

[Page 6150]

people on this side of the House, and indeed many Nova Scotians, are aware, it is very important that we have a contingency plan in place in case we have something like wildcat strikes or other work disruptions, and that is why we are having Bill No. 68. But there is nothing in Bill No. 68 that precludes the continuation of the collective bargaining process, and I want to thank the member opposite for allowing me to point that out once again.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am shaking my head because I don't think Rumpelstiltskin over there has any idea of what is going on. Bill No. 68 is a good way to collective bargain in this province - that is a joke, nothing but a joke. Do you know what it looks like? It looks like Iron Mike has finally met his match with Hamm the Hammer over there. Negotiation is supposed to be a process of give-and-take, and the Premier and the Health Minister and even the Justice Minister said their offers are fair, take it or leave it. I want to ask the minister again, could you explain how that represents collective bargaining, Mr. Minister?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, we have negotiated in good faith with these unions. We have two recommended settlements for the NSGEU, we have one for the NSNU, and regrettably the membership did not endorse them, but we have not . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 69.

Bill No. 69 - Nursing Staff Retention (2001) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to address, this evening, An Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia.

I want to start by tabling a letter sent from the Capital Health District CEO, Robert Smith, to the Health Minister, the Honourable James Muir. Early in the letter, Mr. Robert Smith wrote, "My message is simple: we need a healthy work environment in the Capital District Health Authority to care for our patients. We need motivated employees in a positive workplace."

[Page 6151]

That is precisely what this bill is about. I think it is important to say at the outset that nursing issues are only one part of the equation in providing a quality health system. We have deliberately focused on nurses in this bill because in the mind of the public, happy nurses mean a stable health care system.

The Nursing Staff Retention (2001) Act is an attempt by our party to bring the debate over nursing back to the quality of life issues. Fair compensation is important, but the biggest problem we face in Nova Scotia is trying to provide a positive work environment where nurses can put balance back into their lives.

That is why this bill calls for district health authorities to come up with a nursing staffing plan to ensure patient care is not being compromised due to understaffing. So, to ensure a plan is in place, to identify and to counteract understaffing, such a staffing plan will take into account workloads, adequate vacation and time off for training opportunities. Most importantly, patient outcomes and quality of care must be part of the staffing plan.

Further on in the letter by Robert Smith, " . . . we need to acknowledge that we do not now have all the skilled talent that we require. Where we once had an abundance of nurses, physicians, technologists and other health care professionals, we now have a scarcity. For example, we have about . . ." the honourable member for Halifax Needham mentioned the vacancies, " . . . 160 vacancies in nursing positions throughout our district." That's in the Capital Health District. "Inevitably, shortages of this magnitude will affect our operations over the medium term. The net effect of this is that our health system is compromised by our diminishing ability to attract and retain qualified health professionals to deliver care on the front lines day after day after day." The front lines that this Premier promised during the last election campaign that he was going to address and supply adequate staff at the front lines.

"The pressures that I describe are significant. We cannot rely on even more imposed overtime." This is still the letter from the CEO of the capital district. "We cannot ask for still further personal and professional sacrifices."

One of the key tenets of this bill is the end to forced overtime. Some claim that hospitals cannot function without mandatory overtime. I say that it has not been tried. If we want to retain nurses in this province and attract new ones, mandatory overtime must end. At the very least, mandatory overtime should be used only in the most extreme conditions for which it was originally intended.

Nurses report a deteriorating quality of work life. Issues include appropriate work loads, professional leadership, clinical support, adequate continuing education, career mobility, career ladders, flexible scheduling and deployment, professional respect, protection against injuries and diseases related to the workplace and good wages. The source from that, of course, the minister would recognize, is the Nova Scotia Nursing Strategy.

[Page 6152]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise to speak on this, An Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia. I have to say quite seriously, I don't understand the purpose of the bill because it talks about requiring district health authorities to do those things which they would do simply because they're responsible for the health care system. I just really was trying to understand what the bill would require that is not already in existence.

[4:00 a.m.]

But to begin, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Dartmouth East, who also introduced the bill, talked about deficiencies, lack of nurses here in Nova Scotia, and just to refresh the memory of the honourable member, particularly the honourable members in the Liberal Party, in a report that was commissioned by the former Liberal Government entitled Nursing in Nova Scotia: Strengthening the Foundation, it states in Appendix C of that document under the heading Registered Nurse Employment Trends, similar to the registration numbers, the number of RNs employed in nursing in Nova Scotia peaked in 1993 at 9,325 but had decreased to 8,739 by 1998, an overall net loss of 586 which was 6.3 per cent of the nurses.

The bulk of those nursing positions, Mr. Speaker, 433 were lost between 1994 and 1996 as a result of the restructuring of the Nova Scotia health care system. The Liberal Government put the run to the nurses in Nova Scotia. They not only reduced the number of seats in the training schools, they actually paid nurses to leave the profession and then made them sign contracts that they wouldn't work in Nova Scotia. If we want to know why there is a shortage of nurses today, which this government is trying to address and I would say, you know, it is going to take us a little time, they have to stand up and be counted in this. They did it. We're trying to fix the mess they created.

A bill to maintain adequate levels of nursing professionals in Nova Scotia and, indeed, to maintain health care services has been very much debated during the past number of days in this House by the Opposition filibuster. The name of the bill, the one that we're talking about that is so critical, is Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act and it is Bill No. 68. If the Opposition was truly interested in allowing a satisfactory level of nursing professionals in Nova Scotia to continue and not to be altered, what they could do right now, Mr. Speaker, is just say, folks, let's stop this right now. Let's have the final vote on Bill No. 68 and we won't have a strike this morning at six o'clock and, by the way, that unit that is in a strike position does include practical nurses in the capital district.

[Page 6153]

Let me turn back to the bill in question here, An Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia. As I had said, Mr. Speaker, the move of this government was into evidence-based decision making and the number of nurses, like any other health care professionals, would be determined on evidence and, obviously, there should be some benchmarks and it should be consistent with best practices. I was really puzzled by this thing, the bill, I am not sure and I know that the honourable member wouldn't do it deliberately, but is he questioning the confidence of the administrations of the district health authorities out there and of the IWK Hospital, that they wouldn't have plans for the provision of nursing services and adequate nursing services?

One of the things in this bill, Mr. Speaker, on the second page, Clause 5(1), is that, "No district health authority may require nursing staff to work in excess of pre-scheduled and agreed-upon shifts to maintain compliance with the requirements of the nursing-staff plan." I am not sure really how that differs from the situation today.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister's time has expired.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak on Bill No. 69, An Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia. This bill would apply to registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants and all other personnel whose primary role is to assist nurses or deliver nursing services. It would essentially put in place the ability for nurses, as individuals, to determine whether or not they are capable and fit to perform work in excess of pre-scheduled and agreed-upon shifts and, additionally, it would prevent district health authorities from ordering, requiring nursing staff to work in excess of pre-scheduled and agreed-upon shifts except if there was a national or provincial emergency.

Mr. Speaker, we heard here earlier in Question Period, for example, in the capital district area, that we have 160 vacancies for full-time nursing positions and much to our - well, perhaps not to our surprise - the Minister of Health demonstrated that he has absolutely no idea of what's going on with nursing positions and vacancies. The notion that there are nurses who like casually is yet another demonstration of this minister's ineptitude when it comes to human resource management in the field of health care services. Perhaps if there are people who like to work casually in nursing positions, it is because full-time work as a nurse has become so extraordinarily oppressive for many of these people who are forced repeatedly into overtime situations where they end up not having the ability to have any home life or family life, time with their children, time for themselves, and as a result these women leave the profession as full-time nurses and perhaps continue on a casual basis so that they can maintain their licensing requirements or whatever.

[Page 6154]

So, Mr. Speaker, this is a bill that demonstrates some respect for nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia. This is a bill that attempts to say to nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia that we have listened to what you have had to say when you have come before the Law Amendments Committee or when you have given media interviews, or when you have e-mailed us, or written us, or phoned us, or stopped us on the sidewalk to discuss your situation.

Mr. Speaker, we're all very well aware that the bill that precedes this is Bill No. 68 which is a bill that will contribute to the problem of vacancies in the Province of Nova Scotia and the nursing profession. It will result in low morale for nurses who will leave the province, leave the profession and certainly leave the acute care facilities, perhaps to use their skills privately. This is why a bill like Bill No. 69 sends a very different message to the nursing profession. It sends a message of respect. It sends a message that there are members in this Legislature who are prepared to take a very different course of action with respect to the situation that nurses find themselves in. It also recognizes the absolute importance of nursing staff not being in the workplace trying to provide health care services, important medical care, when they don't feel capable of doing the job. It recognizes that quality health care rests on health care providers who are not so tired that they are unable to perform their duties.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 69. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The only way I would recognize the honourable member for Dartmouth East would be to close debate and there are other speakers who want to speak.

The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to An Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia. I think over the course of the next hour or so that we have to debate this, we will have an opportunity perhaps to reflect on many of the circumstances that result in the crisis that we do have in the supply of nurses in Nova Scotia. There are a great many ways in which one can start to examine this particular problem, but I think perhaps one of the things that we should do is look at in the continental context because we are not alone here in Nova Scotia in having a shortage of nurses. You see these stories coming from other provinces, you actually see stories from the United States in which there are in all of these jurisdictions a relative shortage. That is why, for example,

[Page 6155]

we have recruiting agencies coming around and trying to spirit away many of our good nurses here in Nova Scotia.

In fact, in Canada, it is estimated that currently and in the near future we will need 20,000 new nurses and if you look at the continental numbers, it is estimated that in Canada and the U.S. there is today and in the relatively short term a shortage of some 120,000 nurses. So, first of all, I think it is fair then to conclude from that that we are not, as a province, alone going to be able to solve the shortage problem, but we did a lot to contribute to the shortage here in Nova Scotia. As other provinces did, we shut down the diploma programs that we had in Nova Scotia that always assured from one end of Nova Scotia to the other, even in the rural parts of the province, there was adequate nursing service.

In addition, the Liberal Government a few years ago provided an incentive program to encourage nurses to leave the profession, not looking forward and anticipating that they were creating a serious shortage not too long down the road. The real clincher on that deal was the fact that not only were they paid to leave the profession, they had to sign contracts that they would not re-enter the profession and that was very short-sighted public policy. So we have to start looking around - where is there a solution? Well, I believe that we have to have a national nursing strategy.

I did have an opportunity to meet with Roy Romanow when he was in Halifax and I suggested to him that one of the questions that he should put on his list of questions that his Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada should attempt to have answered is the human resources issue and it is the supply of nurses in Canada. I believe that that will be one of the questions that he will be asking when he again comes to town. It is my understanding that he is going to develop a list of maybe 12 or 13, maybe 14 questions, and I am quite certain that that will be one because clearly with the training that is going on here in Nova Scotia, despite the new training seats that the government has currently provided, we're not coming anywhere near in providing the replacements for the over 8,000 nurses that are practising nursing here in Nova Scotia.

So I am looking for some help from the Commission on the Future of Health Care to develop a national strategy because clearly if here in Nova Scotia we are training a lot of nurses, if, in fact, other provinces are not doing the same thing, then we won't be really providing a solution for ourselves and certainly not for the rest of the country. It is interesting that even though one of the issues that is of intense importance today, and that is the salary level of nurses here in Nova Scotia, even those provinces that are paying the highest salaries have nursing shortages. So that doesn't solve the problem because we have recruiters here from the province that pays the very highest wages in all of Canada and they have a nursing shortage.

[Page 6156]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Premier's time has expired.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

[4:15 a.m.]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak on this bill on this bright, hopefully bright, early morning.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: There is nothing bright about this morning, you have 2,900 nurses and you have health care workers going on strike. There is nothing bright about this morning.

MR. BAKER: The purpose of this bill may be well thought, and I know the member for Lunenburg West . . .

MR. DOWNE: It's a black day; a black day.

MR. BAKER: The member for Lunenburg West seems to have so much to say, but he can't seem to bring himself to his feet to talk about the bill. He seems to be more interested in laying back than talking about this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I am actually going to, as the Opposition members have talked about, talk on the record. The bill may have a good intention, but it is completely impractical in purpose. For example, it suggests that no person could be forced to work unless there was a provincial emergency in the provision of nursing services, a national or provincial emergency. I can tell you, as a fact, all across this province, every winter pretty much, we have flu epidemics. During a flu epidemic many people, including health care workers, get sick. The people who are in hospitals, the patients who are in those hospitals need to be taken care of during a flu epidemic. Unfortunately, the flu epidemics also affect the health care workers in the hospitals.

Is this bill suggesting that in a situation where, for example, half of the nursing staff were to become sick that the other half of the nursing staff would not be required to come in and pitch in and take care of those patients? In fact the nurses, who have spoken so eloquently to all members of the House on many occasions over the last number of days, have never suggested that they would feel there is anything improper or wrong with having those nursing positions filled in a situation where there is no other choice. For example, that would be to hamstring the DHAs from addressing an urgent problem. It would be very hard, if there was a localized flu epidemic, say in Lunenburg County for example or in Inverness County or in Cumberland County or any one of the other counties in Nova Scotia, to call that a provincial emergency.

[Page 6157]

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, if it was my family member in that hospital and that family member needed care, it is darn well an emergency for me and it is an emergency for my family member, and to suggest that those people cannot be compelled or that it is part of their requirements to come and to take care of that sick person is just totally unrealistic. I can tell you from personal experience, because my wife was a nurse, I can remember in snowstorms my wife, who lived right in the Town of Lunenburg and the hospital is in the Town of Lunenburg, staying at the hospital. She stayed at the hospital until someone could come to relieve her. That, frankly, is what any person in any job, that is a responsible person, will do. They will stay there to make sure the job is done.

Mr. Speaker, in point of fact, I can remember having to take nurses into our home, my wife and I would have nurses who were friends of hers who would come into our home because they couldn't drive home in a blizzard. Again, I don't think you could describe that as a national emergency or even a provincial emergency, but I can assure you, in the operation of a health care facility like a hospital, it is critically important that those people be allowed to be required to do those duties until they can be replaced.

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that, as the Premier referred to, what we need is a national nursing strategy. It is not good enough to have the beggar-thy-neighbour approach, where everybody is running around trying to steal nurses and other health care professionals from one another. What we have to develop is a national strategy, as the Premier said. In the meantime, obviously Nova Scotia has to protect itself, it has to participate in attracting nurses to Nova Scotia, and we are doing that. We are attracting nurses to Nova Scotia, but that is not good enough, we have to have a much more comprehensive plan to deal with a nursing strategy.

Mr. Speaker, we also have a problem because we don't have enough nurse-training positions. We eliminated the diploma Schools of Nursing . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in my place and speak about Bill No. 69, an Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in of Nova Scotia. This gives me an opportunity to talk about something that I intended to talk about in Committee of the Whole earlier this week, in fact, it is something that, frankly, I wanted to talk about but unfortunately my time expired and I wasn't able to do so, I had to share some time with my colleagues. This gives me a good opportunity now to talk about one important point that I didn't make during the last debate.

[Page 6158]

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to be invited by a constituent of mine to walk a mile in her shoes. In fact, a constituent of mine, about two weeks ago, called me about Bill No. 68 and what she asked and challenged me to do was to follow her at work. What she did was she said that she would make arrangements through her supervisor and through the hospital where she worked to have permission for me to come along with her and to participate with her. She did that, and I did that.

Mr. Speaker, I took the opportunity to follow a nurse at the intensive care unit of the QE II Health Sciences Centre, in the neurology department. I had the pleasure of meeting a number of her colleagues in the ICU of the QE II, and I had the opportunity to see exactly what it was that this constituent of mine did and the work she had to go through. I must say, although I always respected the work of nurses, I gained a greater level of respect for the work of nurses in the ICU, neurology department. Quite frankly, it was difficult work.

Mr. Speaker, getting back to the point, particularly, of this piece of legislation, the interesting thing that this piece of legislation does do is it will tie the hands of the hospitals and the district health authorities to effectively be able to deal with localized crises, as the Minister of Justice talked about during his debate. He spoke about the ability for a DHA to deal with such things as a localized epidemic, to deal with such a thing as a, heaven forbid, Flight No. 111 crash, or who knows what kind of localized emergency situation. The bill does go on to say, "This Section does not apply to nursing-staff needs in the event of a national or Provincial emergency." But what I am talking about is something that is localized, something that affects just a local area.

Essentially, if this piece of legislation, albeit well-meaning, I am sure, was enacted in this House, effectively what you are going to have is the DHA hamstringed, not even able to deal with an issue of grave and urgent importance in their own area, although I don't believe for a moment that the nurses would comply with this particular piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, as well, during the past couple of weeks I have had the opportunity to take some time and to do some independent research about the health care issue, not only in Nova Scotia but across this country. I took the time to review Web sites of Departments of Health right across this country. What I find is that the problems we are faced with right here in Nova Scotia are no different than the problems that are facing pretty near every single province in this country. I have also found that those problems not only transcend this country from coast to coast but they transcend this continent. That, I would say, is why we are seeing independent people coming from parts of the United States and all over trying to encourage nurses to locate in areas in their jurisdiction. That is what we are seeing. We are seeing recruiters coming from Massachusetts and Texas and California because, quite frankly, they are dealing with the same situation we are dealing with here in Nova Scotia.

[Page 6159]

Mr. Speaker, I spoke about the concern that we have here in Nova Scotia. We know that this government has made incredible strides towards trying to resolve some of the issues. We have a nursing strategy in place, we have increased the number of seats at the nursing schools. We have done our duty and our responsibility to try to put forward some . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak for just a few moments to Bill No. 69, and to the title of the bill, an Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia. I want to begin by confessing to a little bit of a puzzlement that I had, actually about a month ago, when a report came out in the Globe and Mail that indicated that in the Province of Nova Scotia we had the second best ratio per capita of nurses to population. That puzzled me for quite awhile because I know our nurses are overworked and I have heard stories, I know, from my own visitation as a minister in hospital settings.

So I asked for the rationale for that and I found out that two of the reasons are the aging population we have in this province, the higher number of people who use the health care system because of their age, and also the fact that we don't have the healthiest population in the country. If I remember, Maclean's Magazine did a survey on this, showing that our lifestyles are not as healthy as they should be. So if you measure nurses to population, perhaps you get a very good ratio, but if you measure nurses to patients, the ratio would change somewhat. That was the answer that I found as to why this sort of strange statistic was puzzling me.

I have read with great interest the CBC News On-line article about taking the pulse of Canadian nurses by Andrea Selinger, and I will be glad to table it, as to what are the central issues that affect nurses across Canada and the pressure points that arise out of nursing crisis which we find ourselves in now and which other provinces across this country find themselves in as well, very quickly, when we are scheduling flexibility, salary, workload, not enough time for professional development and casualization.

The one I wanted to key on, for just a moment, was the issue of salary and of wage rates, because I sat for 10 and a half hours in the Law Amendments Committee listening to presentations there. Certainly, the frustration that the nurses have came out loud and clear, but one of the things that I kept puzzling about was how can we compete, not with the lure of the United States, I wasn't as worried about that, but with the lure of other provinces? I remember one nurse and her frustration about the low salary that she thought she was getting in this province boiled over and she said, I could move to Alberta where I get more money and where I pay fewer taxes. I thought, how do we compete in that?

[Page 6160]

I think part of the problem, and I don't want to be finger pointing in any way but, since 1993, there has been a shift in the federal government's responsibility for funding some of these services in education and health. I am sure you would agree with that, honourable member. I remember telling teachers last year that unless that was changed that, inevitably, it would mean that the salary rate of teachers would end up matching the income that our province gives. So if we are the ninth richest or poorest on the list, they would end up being the ninth best paid. The same thing is going to happen with nurses unless we get more equalization transfer monies.

So I think that that is important to stress. We have to avoid finger pointing. I think this is a question that all of us are in together but, in the meantime, Mr. Speaker, we have been debating and listening to Bill No. 68. It is no secret that I have wrestled with this bill and I am not going to apologize for anybody for wrestling with this bill. I have had problems with parts of it. My constituents have problems with parts of it and I think part of my job as an MLA is to wrestle with this bill. I am not going to apologize to anyone for that because I take that job seriously, find out how my constituents feel and to look at the bill myself and feel my own conscience.

As I have said, one thing that I wrestled with that I won't apologize for is I have wrestled with this bill, but one thing that has been consistent that I am getting from my constituents is that, and this is from health care workers, as well, Mr. Speaker, is that a strike is not something that they want to see happen. So let's vote on Bill No. 68. Let's go to that and ensure, for the meantime, adequate nursing coverage and then begin to deal with the long-term problem.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, in going through Bill No. 69, I noticed that the honourable sponsor of the bill mentions a number of workplace issues; puts a lot of emphasis on a nursing staff needs plan; talks about, shall contain a determination of sufficient nursing staff; talks about, provides for a review of incidents relating to nursing staff plan; attracts and analyses patterns of nursing staff requirements. Many issues directly related to workplace issues.

[4:30 a.m.]

I think everyone understands that the discussions that are going on now and have brought us to this point on Bill No. 68 are not solely issues directly related to finances and directly related to nurses salaries but, in fact, the issues are very seriously associated with workplace issues. So there is some similarity between the basic theme of Bill No. 69 and the practical implementation of plans that our government has been involved in, such as the

[Page 6161]

Nova Scotia Nursing Strategy and the Nova Scotia nursing initiatives coming out of that strategy.

That strategy, Mr. Speaker, certainly addresses the main subject of the bill, Bill No. 69, An Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia. It breaks it into four categories: support to practising nurses; support to student nurses; enhanced recruitment resources; and workforce development and utilization. If you take those four main areas without going into too much difficulty, it is not hard to understand that what we have tried to do and are well on our way to meeting in the nursing strategy is to address the many issues involved in workplace issues, issues that are of primary concern to the nursing profession and other health care professionals.

Mr. Speaker, in the support to practising nurses, the first area, the government provided $2 million for patient equipment. Now, this is a workplace issue. It involves lifts and beds and other pieces of equipment that the nurses and other health care workers do require in order to more effectively do their job, and we have begun that process as a government. We are also moving through areas, fund orientation for nurses in new positions. It is important that when these nurses do get into new positions, that there is adequate funding and training so that they don't get bogged down in workplace issues because of the lack of a complete understanding of what is expected of them and what is available for them to use.

We also, in that same thought, are funding the continuing education, which, again, is part of the process to ensure that the workplace issues are fully understood and that the new nurses, especially, as well as those existing ones, are provided all the educational opportunities to better work within their environment. In the support to student nurses, we piloted a nursing co-operative education experience and, through that, have implemented a province-wide co-operative learning experience. Another workplace issue that is important.

In enhanced recruitment resources, we have ensured that the appropriate staff have attended major job fairs and we have actually increased that to maximize provincially co-ordinated attendants at nursing job fairs; a workplace issue, no question, because it will result in an ever increasing number of nurses coming to Nova Scotia.

Workforce development and utilization, we have implemented four primary care projects that include nurse practitioners, Mr. Speaker, and we have created over 150 positions through casual conversions.

So we have taken steps to improve. . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

[Page 6162]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Liberal Opposition, Third Party, for giving us the chance to get up today and speak about some of the positive things that we are doing in health care in Nova Scotia and, indeed, addressing that very critical issue of a continuation of health care services and, of course, public safety, which is of a great concern to the people on this side of the House here. I would like to think it is also a concern on the other side of the Chamber. However, the title is a very interesting one, An Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia. One could extrapolate that to perhaps talk about adequate health care.

Mr. Speaker, here in the province, before the prospect of a labour interruption, we were already pushed to the limit in terms of addressing the demand for health care. The possibility of a labour disruption would seem to, very much, go against the title of the bill that the Liberal Party has brought forward for debate today, An Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia.

Actually, I would suggest that some of the things they have put in here, they are the kind of soft, feel-good things that you might expect to find in a bill that is to address a very complex problem and, indeed, they have suggested it can be addressed with five clauses and one and one-fifth pages, that is the Liberal plan for solving problems with all nursing shortages in Nova Scotia. It is reflected in the wording of the plan. I note in Clause 3 (1), is says, "The chief nursing executive at each district health authority shall develop a written nursing-staff plan for the relevant health district." Well, that is a reasonable thing to do.

It goes on that, Clause 3(2), "A district health authority shall ensure nursing staff are employed in sufficient numbers for the proper implementation of the nursing-staff plan developed for that authority." It goes on like this. That is a little bit of Nirvana, I think, because some of us in this House are aware that there seems to be somewhat of a shortage of nurses, not only in Nova Scotia but right across North America. Indeed, that is a concern to me. If we were to go with what the Liberals have very kindly tendered as their rather simplistic solution to nursing shortages in Nova Scotia, it would be based on the assumption that there is an abundant supply of nurses, that is registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, nursing assistants and all the other people who indulge in that noble profession.

It is an interesting concept, but it completely misses the reality of the situation. Indeed, what are we doing here debating this today. In one hour and 22 minutes, the health care system in Nova Scotia can be paralysed because of a legal strike. (Interruptions) The reason for that is because the Opposition Parties have not made public safety a priority. They have filibustered at all opportunities for the last two weeks. We have been going 24 hours a day, and we are one hour and 21 minutes from a legal strike now, and it is because the Opposition has not allowed us to bring the immediate solution . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame on you (Interruptions)

[Page 6163]

MR. MORSE: . . . to maintain adequate levels of health care professionals in Nova Scotia to a vote. The answer to that is not Bill No. 69, it is voting on Bill No. 68, and it is doing it now, so that we avoid a legal strike in one hour and 21 minutes. The onus is on the Opposition, they can stop this. They should get up and let this House vote on Bill No. 68. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame on you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a genuine pleasure to get up to speak to Bill No. 68. I think that, perhaps, the requirement for this bill is being brought forward at the wrong time, however, the bill itself I think, addresses a very definite need that we have, not only in this province but right across this country, and perhaps even worldwide, where there is a shortage of nurses.

Mr. Speaker, I think that when we talk about the fact that we don't have enough nurses, we have to look at it from two particular aspects. One is, are we not training sufficient nurses? Secondly, are we not using, most efficiently, the nursing force that we have? I think that the present state that we have in Nova Scotia and in Canada is a combination of both. Probably the worst decision, I think we made, with regard to nurses was several years ago, about 10 years ago, when we decided to wind down the hospital nursing schools where young persons, female initially, but in the end both male and female, would enter into a type of a training program that was essentially an apprentice program for training nurses. These nurses, there are many of them still in the system, are considered to be RNs and they are RNs. They are providing a splendid service.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of people today who are going to universities and taking training for various professions and other occupations where, perhaps, the training could be best developed and could be best acquired through something along the lines of an apprenticeship program. This does not only apply to the nursing profession, it applies to a lot of other professions, whether it be in engineering or in pharmaceutical practices. In all kinds of various aspects of the professions there is a need for some type of apprentice training.

I know that the nursing profession itself came out in, I think it was about 1988 or 1987, somewhere in that area, and the idea was that by the year 2000 all nurses would be trained to the standards of Bachelor of Nursing. I have no difficulty with that, but the trouble is that these persons who graduate from the universities with a Bachelor of Nursing degree, when they go to a hospital they are, in truth - and there may be those who would dispute this - but when they go to a hospital and start work, in fact, the nurse from the diploma or the certificate program . . .

[Page 6164]

AN HON. MEMBER: A degree-granting institution.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, exactly. These people are, in large measure, much more useful immediately. Then the other nurses who are university trained, they have devoted a lot of time to the very detailed side of nursing, specializing in many fields that heretofore were accommodated by those who were physicians. They wanted to move up, and primarily they want to move up into the administrative and to the high levels of nursing, but there is still a level of nursing down here that has to be accommodated, and this is the field that we are not meeting.

If we could get more nurses in at the bottom, perhaps not BNs, perhaps certified, well then we could accommodate that because of the lower salary level for those persons, but also free up the nurses for the higher and more practical sides of their profession.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable Minister of Finance. (Interruptions)

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of rabbit tracks being thrown across the floor. The honourable member for Dartmouth North is saying the real Finance Minister, and of course he is referring to the fact that the member for Lunenburg West was referring to me as the wannabe Premier. I said what I want to be is a real Finance Minister versus what some people said was there before. However, I do know that the member tried his best when he was there. He was a fine gentleman, and I don't disagree with that. We agree on many things and sometimes we disagree on others. One thing about this Assembly is although we sometimes don't have the same political affiliations, we often agree on certain issues though we sometimes agree to disagree on others.

[4:45 a.m.]

I spoke on this issue yesterday when I talked in the Committee of the Whole House on Bill No. 68. One of the things that I talked about with regard to the bill, was, in a sense, some of the hypocrisy that we have heard about the fact that this being a draconian bill, especially from the Liberal side, talking so much about the fact that they would never have done anything along these lines, when they very conveniently forget the fact that they introduced Bill No. 41 which basically took 3 per cent away. Then Bill No. 82, which was twice as bad, which also talked about unpaid vacation (Interruption) vacation leave - thank you very much for the proper definition - equal to 2 per cent and also froze wages for three years. So, when they are talking about that, I had a lot of difficulty in sitting quietly without at least bringing that up.

[Page 6165]

I am prepared to stand in my place and defend Bill No. 68 because it is controversial. I know that. For the members opposite to talk about the fact that they would never do this, that our government is doing something that is unheard of, is implausible. So when I talk about it, I also mention Bill No. 69 and I mention the fact that I found it amazing that the honourable member for Dartmouth East would stand up and would introduce Bill No. 69, An Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia, Act because, as I reminded him, and as they have been reminded by the other speakers in this debate tonight, it was their government and their Minister of Health, a certain gentleman I think is well known in the Province of Nova Scotia and his name happens to be Ron Stewart. He came in and he was going to reform health care in Nova Scotia, he was going to make it dynamic, he was going to base it on the State of California, it was going to be all things to all people. I know that before the first term was over, Dr. Stewart - and I have talked with him personally - was very happy to leave provincial politics. His vision of politics was different from what it was and, obviously, the acceptance of the people to his plan was different.

The reason I am referring to that is because under his leadership, the Province of Nova Scotia and the Liberal Party told nurses that they were no longer required. We had too many nurses in this province. They paid millions of dollars in severance pay to nurses. That is a fact. That is not Neil LeBlanc standing in his place today and fabricating a point. That is a fact.

Also, let's look at something else. They also told nurses that we want you to sign an agreement that you will not work in the Province of Nova Scotia. I only have 30 seconds left, but I want to emphasize that within a year to a year and one-half, the government suddenly realized that they were headed for a nursing shortage in the Province of Nova Scotia. After they had spent literally $10 million, $20 million, $30 million on severance for those nurses, for them to have the audacity to stand up and put forward a bill like this, does not add very much to the debate. There is a requirement for initiatives in nursing.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: It gives me pleasure to stand this evening and take part in the debate on Bill No. 69 and that is An Act to Maintain Adequate Levels of Nursing Professionals in Nova Scotia, and to indeed maintain health care services in this province. Certainly over the last number of hours we have listened to discussions, so that it is readily apparent to all Nova Scotians that health care is critically important and to ensure that that level of health care services maintained is critically important to all members of this Legislature and, in fact, to all Nova Scotians.

[Page 6166]

Even though there are different perspectives at the end of the day, I think everyone recognizes that it is incumbent on all members in this House to work together to ensure that we do put in place legislation that protects Nova Scotians. There is no question, when I was in my riding on the weekend and talking to people about this issue, it certainly is one of grave concern to the people in rural Nova Scotia. In fact, every Nova Scotian anywhere in this province, everyone recognizes full well just how dedicated and highly professional our health care practitioners are. In fact, in order to adequately solve the problems that are facing the Province of Nova Scotia in terms of the provision of health care services, I think we have to become much more creative.

I look to some of the solutions that have been put in place in my riding, Mr. Speaker. I have an area that is very diverse geographically and, in fact, has some unique problems, and the solutions that have been developed in that part of the community have been based on the people in the community working together to a common goal. In fact, one of the areas in my riding, Brier Island and Long Island, has had a long and difficult history in terms of ensuring that they would have, first of all, a physician. Because, one of the things that Nova Scotians value is adequate levels of physician services, but in areas like Brier Island and Long Island it is very difficult.

Unfortunately, they have not been able to attract a physician to that area, so then they proceeded to look at a more unique solution to that particular part of the community and they sought to put forward a pilot project to have a nurse practitioner. Unfortunately, that did not come to a positive conclusion because at the end of the day physicians saw that they might be losing ground in terms of their professional organization, that in order to accept a nurse practitioner as an equal or being able to participate at some level it meant that the physicians in my area had to give a bit of ground and they were not prepared to do that. I believe the legislation that we passed to provide an opportunity for nurse practitioners to be made available in this province is a giant step forward.

Beyond the nurse practitioner proposal we saw a similar solution would be made available through the provision of paramedics - allowing paramedics to do some of the work that nurse practitioners might have been able to do or provide blood pressure testing and that, as I mentioned in a resolution earlier, is being recognized as being leading not only in Nova Scotia, but nationally. In fact, I believe the solution using paramedics to provide levels of health care services is something that has merit to be considered in many other areas of the province, whether it is in Cape Breton or in Shelburne or in some of the areas that may not be able to attract doctors or may not be able to attract nurses.

So, Mr. Speaker, when we talk about legislation, that is only part of the solution and certainly the discussion has gone on around the bill that is before the House now and that we will be debating to some degree later on this morning. The one we are talking about right now is about providing for a solution that works and works for all Nova Scotians regardless of where they live or what Party they represent. Unfortunately, many times in this Legislature

[Page 6167]

a lot of the debate and discussion focuses more on partisan political discussions than on really trying to work together to a common solution.

Mr. Speaker, that has been one of the great disappointments, I think, of many people who come to the Legislature thinking they will be able to accomplish great things for Nova Scotia and work together as part of a team. Unfortunately, we find that a great deal of time and debate and discussion is not spent in trying to find positive, common solutions, but rather in trying to position oneself for a future election. Certainly, we see that when a former government crosses the House and becomes representatives of the Opposition, their perspective and attitude changes and oftentime legislation that is very similar is looked at in a very different way, in this case, I would say, by the Liberals, since they have been the only Opposition Party that had the opportunity . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The hour has expired on Private Members' Public Bills that have been brought before the House by the Opposition Party. The Opposition Party has not brought any other business forward, so with the unanimous consent of the House, with no movement of any adjournment or other debates, I will allow the debate on this bill to continue until 5:29 a.m., if the members agree. If not, we will recess until 5:29 a.m.

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, Resolution No. 1685 was our next order of business that we would like to have dealt with.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. My understanding was there was no business that was brought before the House when the House expired last night. However, Resolution No. 1685. Could the honourable member for Lunenburg West read it, please.

Res. No. 1685, Gov't. (N.S.) - Bill No. 68: Subsequent Legislation - Reconsider - notice given June 18/01- (Mr. M. Samson)

MR. DOWNE: It is by Michel Samson, Mr. Speaker:

"Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Bill No. 68 is a terribly misguided piece of legislation which takes power away from Nova Scotians and places it in the hands of self-serving Tories; and

Whereas whoever advised the Tories on this legislation certainly misread the tea leaves; and

[Page 6168]

Whereas public dissatisfaction over this bill hurt the Tories big time in the next election;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government think twice - or even three times for that matter - before they ever produce another draconian piece of legislation as Bill No. 68."

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Can the honourable member for Lunenburg West or one of the members of the Liberal Party provide the Speaker with the speaking order?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, we will be handing over the schedule shortly on this bill and I believe that we have 10 minutes each; fair enough?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, when you take a look at the headlines in today's paper, today being Wednesday morning, now at 4:57 a.m., today's paper - "Health walkout to be short" but the nurses are showing in here that there will be a walkout in the Province of Nova Scotia. I think that points out all too well that this bill has enraged the health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia to the extent where they are talking about not just a walkout, they are talking about walking away from the Province of Nova Scotia.

This Bill No. 68 that we are referring to here has been said by health care workers and nurses in this province as the beginning of the demise of the health care system as we know it in the Province of Nova Scotia. Bill No. 68, without question. This Tory Government is saying this is going to be their cornerstone for health delivery in the Province of Nova Scotia. Premier Hamm is talking about, at the heart of the problem of health care is the fact that nurses are working overtime and so on and so forth and they are getting called back, Bill No. 68 will fix that problem, according to them.

Well, I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that Bill No. 68 will not help that problem, it will really make the problem worse than it currently is. Bill No. 68 is a bill that has been poorly thought through. It has given no recognition in this bill that points out that this government supports the hard work and the dedication of nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia, the hard work and dedication of health providers in the Province of Nova Scotia, whether they are technicians or laboratory technicians. This bill, in fact, takes away their fundamental right of appeal. This bill that has been drafted by somebody on the backbenches, somebody on the government benches, that says, we will not allow those nurses that we so freely talk about caring in a compassionate way, in reality, they have taken away their ability to even (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, can you get some order in the House here?

[Page 6169]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I agree with the honourable member for Lunenburg West. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take their conversations outside if they have to carry on. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: I appreciate your comment to the members that they can leave the Chamber, on the government side, if they don't want to pay attention. I appreciate that. I think they should have had that said to them quite some time ago because if they had been paying attention to this side of the House, the Opposition side of the House, they might have learned something. But, instead, they close their ears like their hearts are hardened or their ears are closed to the reality of what is going to be facing them today and what is going to be facing this province each and every day from now on because of Bill No. 68.

That will be a situation within the health care system, number one, that the morale will be at a long-time low; number two, the threat of work to rule; number three, the mass exodus that is going to happen with the health care workers and the nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia. Whether it is 1 or 10 or 100, this system is predicated on the basis that health delivery only works if you work overtime. When you start losing any number of nurses or health care workers, it puts the whole system in disarray.

[5:00 a.m.]

It was interesting listening to the Premier, the Premier talks about how we need more nurses and his way of getting more nurses is to bring in Bill No. 68. It absolutely doesn't make any sense whatsoever what this government is trying to do. In fact, I think it has been a fatal move for this government on a number of fronts. It has been a fatal move for the viability and the sustainability of the health care system. It has been a fatal move with regard to building confidence among the Public Service in the Province of Nova Scotia that that government has any inkling of caring and compassion for the workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I think the Minister of Health referred to Liquor Commission people as being essential service. Well, you know, I think there was some comment about that yesterday or the day before in an interview. I could be mistaken, but that is what was reported to me. Nevertheless, there are going to be other people whose jobs will be on the block if this legislation is passed, which we will know today.

This government has also made a very strategic blunder, in my view, politically. I note with interest that there are members on the front bench that have been around for a number of years who understand politics all too well. It is probably going through their minds, why did we bring in this draconian piece of legislation that slaps people in the face, tells them we don't respect them, we don't care about them and furthermore, we are going to legislate them. We are going to take their right of appeal away, then we will take away the ability for

[Page 6170]

them to strike and then after all those rights being taken away, then we are going to say, there is no arbitration process involved. You negotiate on our terms with our cap on the negotiation and you like it or you lump it. This is the deal you are getting. There is no more. There is no more discussion. There is no more debate.

It is interesting. It is like listening to the Minister of Finance standing up in his normal rant and rage, that how dare anybody even question him on anything? That is the style of this government. The style is to yell and scream and blame everybody around you. We even had the minister responsible for the poll that was done, blame the Liberals for doing that poll. We didn't even know anything about it. I couldn't believe it. So, you blame everybody you possibly can on the face of the earth and then, when you run out of people to blame, then you yell and scream. You yell and scream as loud as you can about anything you want to yell and scream at and everybody gets intimidated and nervous.

The bottom line is that Nova Scotians don't get intimidated and don't get nervous by yelling and screaming. What they get interested in is looking at government policy, and looking at how we treat people? How do we care about the people that work for us? How do we define fairness? How do we define respect? How do we define the ability for government to show within its fiscal means - and I am not asking them to give anybody a blank cheque. That has never been a statement that has come from me, no matter how much the Premier is trying to mislead and take away from the comments that are being made. I am not talking about a blank cheque. I am talking, we have to realize where we are.

Let it be very clear that they are the government that has made the decision that they want to show disrespect and not respect for the health care workers of Nova Scotia. Don't believe me, the backbenchers and the front benches of this government, don't believe me, just listen to the people outside. If you don't want to believe me and you don't want to believe the Official Opposition or the Third Party members, that is fine, that is your prerogative, but go home, go outside, talk to the ones who are out there at 6:00 o'clock this morning and find out how many endearing feelings they have about you now, find out how they feel you have treated them.

I guess the acid test we talk about, when your children go to school and then come home and they can read and write and make it through on a number of other factors. Well, there is an acid test you are going to be going forward with, and that is that you are up there saying how Bill No. 68 is so good, so right and fair and just and will provide for sustainability of the health care system, and we will soon know the acid test to that question. We will soon find out how right you are or how righteous you think you are. We are going to have maybe one or two people out on the street telling you what they think about Bill No. 68, and you will have people in your riding talking about Bill No. 68. I think, for that reason, you might want to reconsider how you are going to deal with that vote later today.

[Page 6171]

I don't ever recall giving a speech at 5:07 a.m. on any other day of my life (Interruptions) and do you know what? (Interruptions) I am not ashamed of being here giving a talk at 5:07 a.m. on whatever day this is - I think it is Wednesday - because what I am talking about are rights and freedoms and choices; I am talking about respect and compassion and caring; I am talking about fairness and equality; and I am talking about trying to provide a balance of fairness. That is what I am talking about, we are saying to them what the nurses and health care workers are asking for. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, the member at the back woke up, and I don't know what he said, I heard some things about rape, I don't know what he is referring to here. Even within that bill, somebody who would do as dastardly a deed as that in society still has an appeal process. This government has taken that away, the nurses cannot even appeal the decision that is made under Bill No. 68. (Interruption) The member opposite wants to go off on some other tangent, but the acid test will be, for them, when they go talk to Nova Scotians. The acid test will be when they go talk to the nurses and health care workers in Nova Scotia, that will be the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. (Interruptions) Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the Minister of Community Services, the honourable member for Bedford-Fall River. Before getting into the resolution put forth by the member for Richmond, who is also a young member in this Chamber, I had expected we would be talking actually to the bill put forward by the member for Dartmouth East, Bill No. 69, but unfortunately the debate was cut short. I will be touching on a few things with respect to that as well. (Interruptions) I hear the member for Lunenburg West, he did make some good points during his speak and banter about the bill. I do believe he brought some good points forward.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68, and there has, no doubt, been a lot of debate the last two weeks about that bill, it is a tough bill. There's not a doubt. There are various components to the bill, obviously, public health and safety is one of them, and it is one I take very seriously and it is one I spoke about the other day. As well, there are also various clauses which are tough. I know that everyone in this House is generally interested in seeing this province have a quality health care system. I know that the previous government was intent on that, although we know the history of that.

I can tell you, during the time that the Minister of Health, when he was speaking to Bill No. 69, he was talking about the years from 1993 to 1998. For myself, as a younger member, it was right around the time I was finishing my degree at St. F. X. and had the opportunity to be taking courses with nurses, like the anatomy and physiology courses. Indeed, many of

[Page 6172]

my friends were going through the RN Program through St. Martha's. I, too, agree with the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, who has a great deal of experience in this House, that that was an important program in this province. It stopped, actually, in August, I believe, of 1995. It is one which I think we obviously have to take a look at with respect to how it plays with respect to the number of nursing seats we have in this province, although I do think that the degree programs have done a better job in the last number of years. I think there has been a recognition that, indeed, more clinical practice, through those courses, was needed and is being done now.

So, if you take a look back at what the previous Liberals did, indeed, the member for Lunenburg West talks about, and the member for Richmond indicates in his resolution that public dissatisfaction over this bill will hurt the Tories big time in the next election. Yes, it will probably cost a few votes. When you are in government, as I mentioned the other day, sometimes you have to make tough decisions and you have to make decisions which you feel are right. The Opposition may disagree on it, that is fine, the public will decide in the next election. Indeed, we will listen to them this summer and we will tell them our side of the story. The Opposition will do their job and tell them their part of the story, and they will make the decision. There is no doubt.

Mr. Speaker, I will definitely remind them of what the Liberals did in reducing the number of full-time nurses in this province the way they did between 1993 and 1995, I believe it was by about 500 FTEs. I, indeed, will remind them of what they did to programs like the one at St. Martha's, which I know the member for Antigonish was also very impressed with. I believe his wife may have actually graduated from that program, as did my wife. I can tell you it was a very impressive program. We will remind them of what they did. As well, we will remind them of the wage rollback, which that government did.

I find it quite ironic that at times and, perhaps, it is reflective, when you move, sometimes, around the House in different seats - as I know the member for Victoria has, I think he has sat, basically, all around this room - that sometimes the stories will change as you go from either Opposition to government or government to Opposition. That will happen because your roles do change. At one point you are criticizing, and that is your job, to be a critic; then on the other side, your job is to govern as a government. I think we all have a part to play in that.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know how much time I have left, perhaps . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Five minutes.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Well, just to wrap up my comments, I indeed do welcome the comments from the other side of the House. It is certainly something I will be thinking about over the summer when I do remind my constituents about what the previous government did and why we put this bill forward. I have talked to a lot of nurses in the last

[Page 6173]

few days about this very bill and I will continue to do that over the next weeks and months ahead. I will share my time now with the member for Bedford-Fall River, the Minister of Community Services. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join in this debate this evening to look at these couple of bills that have been brought forward and these resolutions. I think, as I start speaking on this, there has been a lot of discussion. I would like to focus on another area this evening. As we start and we look - we talk about the health and safety, and we have had a lot of discussion around that over the last few days, around Bill No. 68. I think I just want to focus for a few minutes on another area of that. As we talk about health and safety areas, that includes a lot more than just health care workers and hospitals and so on. I just want to take us back for a few minutes to the Children's Aid and child protection sections. That, obviously, is an area of health protection and safety protection in this province.

[5:15 a.m.]

A couple years ago, as people will remember, nationally people were looking at this issue and they were looking at this issue in terms of the caseloads of people. They were looking at it from a national perspective as to what the caseloads were for social workers, how they compared across the country and, indeed, what was the optimum. Of course, the member for Dartmouth North will know that, having been a student of Community Services and the critic of that. So as we looked at those issues and you looked at the caseloads across the country, it became obvious that there was a need to enrich the number of social workers in this province and reduce the caseload. We will all be aware that at the time the trend was increasing in terms of (Interruption) The caseworker is correct and that the trend we're continuing in the need for child protection services and the need was growing in the area of Children's Aid.

I recall just when I first went into Community Services, the issue in front of people was how would you deal with this caseload and I recall the challenge in front of us was to attempt to find some 70-plus new social workers to get into the Children's Aid Societies, to get into our child protection so that we could provide the caseload levels that were appropriate across the country. That indeed was a challenge, Mr. Speaker, and in 1999 we undertook that program. We started in the year 2000 to go and find those people. It is strikingly similar to the discussion that we were having on nurses just a few minutes ago. As we all know, whether it is nurses or it is social workers, they are very mobile across Canada and they can go to different places, but we undertook that program to try to get back our levels of numbers of caseworkers, to reduce the caseload.

[Page 6174]

As it happens, we were successful in getting 71 new caseworkers and we find now that the other provinces are finding that challenge and they are in the process of trying to work up their caseloads and to get those social workers. So we had an opportunity. The challenge was in front of us and we accepted that challenge to try to get those workers so that we could strengthen our child protection and our Children's Aid sectors. It is something that you had to recognize.

A lot of times the honourable member for Dartmouth North has indicated they want to see statistics on where statistics are for people coming into this province, what the needs are for people coming into this province, who it is that we need to provide child protection services, who it is we need to provide income assistance for and provide those various statistics so we can do that. That, indeed, provides us with a challenge to try and do that, but I was reminded as we had that discussion earlier about the nursing section, about the similarities.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to be able to have an opportunity on behalf of the Official Opposition to talk about Resolution No. 1685. The Minister of Tourism and Culture got up a little earlier and said that his government has had to make a choice and they have made the choice, and they are going to stand by it and he will sell that to the people in his riding when he goes home for the summer.

You know, Mr. Speaker, that would be a lot more palatable to the people of Nova Scotia, it would be a lot more believable to myself and a lot of other members on the Opposition bench if it wasn't for the fact that what we heard from every member when they stood up over the last few days to defend this bill, it hasn't been a defence on the basis that we will build a stronger health care system. It hasn't been a defence on the basis of this will make nurses happy but their defence has been to blame others. (Interruption)Yes, they blamed the previous Liberal Government.

We heard the Minister of Finance earlier today blame the previous Liberal Government for the issue of mass retirings, early retirement program for nurses. We had the Minister of Justice get up in Committee of the Whole House on Bills earlier this week and blame the federal government for not paying enough in equalization. I may have even heard that somewhere today from someone. We had the unions blamed, from time to time, for brinkmanship. We have had ourselves blamed by this Party with regard to this legislation for doing our democratic process and allowing us to speak as much as we can in certain circumstances. All of these people are being blamed and it goes back to a bigger problem that this government has - it does not take responsibility for its own decisions, Mr. Speaker. It

[Page 6175]

doesn't take responsibility. It doesn't want to say, we made decisions, we made tough decisions and we are going to stand by them, no.

It will blame the district health authority, it will blame the federal government, it will blame school boards with regard to education, or blame municipalities, or blame individuals. It will blame unions. It will blame Opposition Parties, but never is it willing to say, we are making decisions and we are moving forward. There is always someone else to blame. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is not what I call courage. That is not what I call a government that is standing up and having itself recognized. The Minister of Tourism and Culture is going to go home with his tail between his legs and as he even admitted, he is not going to stand and talk to people at the local fair or the local carnival or the local lobster dinner or what have you and say, we made a tough decision. His response was, I am going to tell them what the Liberals did between 1993 and 1995.

This government is in its second year come this summer and people are going to be tired of that refrain. I am not here to defend what the Liberals did in 1993-95, but I will say this, the people of Nova Scotia are sick and tired of this government blaming someone else for its decisions. After two years, the people of Nova Scotia would hope that when you go home, all of you, this summer, and meet with your constituents, that you would be willing to take the blame and take the credit for your own decisions. But, no, that is not what we get from this government. It is always about finger pointing. It is always about blaming others.

Before, as I mentioned, they have the five envelopes - the federal government, they will pull that one out and they will blame the federal government for their woes. They will pull out the envelope of the health care system and they will blame the district health authorities. They will pull out the other envelope on education and blame the school boards. They will pull out a fourth envelope with regard to some services and blame that on municipalities. The fifth envelope was always the individual and that is why the individuals are paying $120 million a year more in taxes, because this government wants to blame them and wants to force them to have to pay for their mistakes.

Mr. Speaker, the people don't want that anymore. You can get away with that for a year, or maybe even a year and a half, but the people of Nova Scotia will not allow this government to continue to blame others. At some point, before it goes back to the polls, it has to begin to admit its failings, it has to begin to acknowlege what it has done wrong and take responsibliity for it or they will pay the price in the polls. This resolution talks about that and that is what so important - that a government cannot and should not be re-elected if it cannot and will not admit its mistakes and show that it is willing to move forward with maturity. We don't see that in this government.

We don't see a government that seems willing and is prepared to admit it made mistakes, whether it be the paramedics bill, whether it be the 50 kids in a classroom comment, whether it be the cuts that continue to happen in Education, they will blame

[Page 6176]

someone else. The new scapegoats are the unions or the nurses who can't be trusted. I don't know who the spin doctors are for this government, but they have one formula - blame someone else. Mr. Speaker, it is tiring. It is a refrain that the people of Nova Scotia are sick and tired of and they won't take it anymore. They are not going to listen to it. They are not going to want to listen to it.

If the Minister of Tourism and Culture is going to go back to Inverness this summer and blame the Liberals or blame the federal government or blame the unions or blame the nurses or blame the municipality, for all I know, the people in his riding are not going to listen. That is a sin because maybe he needs an opportunity to really talk to them and really listen himself but, instead, he is going to play the blame game. He is going to play the finger pointing game and, Mr. Speaker, that is not what is going to happen. That is not what the people are going to take. People are going to say, that is enough. That is enough from you, Minister of Tourism and Culture. We deserve better. We deserve a government that is going to admit and take credit for its accomplishments and be proud of the decisions it makes, whether people like them or not. That is not what we have in this government. We don't have a government that is listening. We don't have a government that is reacting; we have a government that instead is driving agendas and when they get caught, like in the middle of the night and the light is flashed on them, they decide to blame someone else.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia aren't going to deal with that anymore. They elected a government that would be different than the Liberal Government. They elected a government that would fix their health care system. They elected a government they thought would fix their education system. Yes, would be fiscally disciplined; yes, would be fiscally responsible at the same time. Yet, this government hasn't accomplished any of that. That is why the people of Nova Scotia will judge this government in this next election and the judgment will get even worse unless this government begins to admit its mistakes, is willing to say that it made those choices and is willing to try to do something about it.

Unfortunately, that is not what we have. We have a government, as I said, that continues to blame, continues to skirt issues, continues to suggest that others are at fault. The people of Nova Scotia, that is not why they elected you; Mr. Speaker, that is not why they elected this Tory Government. What will happen? Who knows, but I will say this, that I would have a lot more respect for this government if they were willing to fess up to their mistakes when they make them, were willing to acknowledge that they made decisions, maybe tough ones, without blaming others, but the same old refrain, the same old spin doctor moves - blame someone else.

Those five envelopes I talked about, probably up to eight envelopes now, but there are plenty of envelopes out there that this government keeps trying to reach into. They are like a postal worker. They keep digging into the bag looking for another envelope they can pull out and blame someone. It is not working anymore. Whatever political capital this

[Page 6177]

government had with regard to its ability to sell Nova Scotians on its agenda isn't working. That political capital was expended in the last two weeks.

Mr. Speaker, we have a government now that has no political capital, has no clear plan on how they are going to meet their mandate. And remember, their mandate is to fix health care and improve our education system while balancing the books. This is the real problem. This government doesn't have a plan and doesn't have a way of addressing that and doesn't have a way of explaining to Nova Scotians how they are going to deal with their mandate, yet they continue to blame, yet they continue to say others are the reason we are in this situation. As I said earlier, that may work in the first month or the first year, but it won't work in your second, your third or your fourth years.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that is for Nova Scotians to decide at the next election, but I would hope that this government would finally show the backbone and the courage to come forward and instead of blaming others, just say we made the decision. Yes, we are serious about the circumstances and we took it. Well, you know, that is the real problem. Stop blaming others. Stop trying to allow others to be scapegoats for your mistakes and when they do that, the people of Nova Scotia might actually begin to respect them just a little.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired and Opposition Members' Business has expired.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Third Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 68.

Bill No. 68 - Healthcare Continuation (2001) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay. You have approximately 31 minutes.

[Page 6178]

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that I never would have dreamed that I would be here at 5:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. That is redundant, actually, morning means a.m., 5:30 a.m. and still debating a piece of legislation which just about everybody in this province agrees should not even be before this House.

Mr. Speaker, I am not looking forward to the fact that in approximately half an hour from now that there is going to be a strike among health care professionals in the Province of Nova Scotia. I can tell you that those health care professionals are not looking forward to the fact that they will be on a picket line half an hour from now. I can tell you that in the many years that I spent in the media I have heard the phrase last-ditch effort, eleventh hour bargaining taking place, and it is during those times, in a lot of cases, that agreements are reached, because it all comes down to the fact that you are facing something you don't want to happen, in this case a strike, and you can hammer out an agreement.

[5:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as we know, and as we have seen throughout this whole ordeal, this government has no intention whatsoever of even attempting to negotiate with health care professionals and nurses, so there won't be any last-ditch efforts made and there won't be any eleventh hour settlement that will be reached in this situation. That is sad. That is very sad, that is very disappointing and disheartening, not only for health care professionals and nurses but for us as legislators and, indeed, for the Province of Nova Scotia, because it is the people in this province who are going to be hurt the most when something like this happens.

Mr. Speaker, it is this government and it is that Premier and it is his Cabinet that are going to wear that for the rest of their term and, perhaps, for the rest of their lives. Collective bargaining is a tough process, that is no secret; it is a tough process but it works. It has been proven time after time that it does work, and what is at stake here for health care workers is their future with the passing of Bill No. 68. When Bill No. 68 passes, and I am sure there are a lot of government members, if not all of the government members over there right now, who are rubbing their hands gleefully, saying, I can't wait until later today when we finally pass Bill No. 68, and I can get out of here and I can go home. Some of them are probably thinking, I am going to try to forget that this ever happened. Maybe when they wake up it will be a bad dream. That is what some of them are hoping. But it is reality.

Reality is here and it is almost upon us. This government has forced upon this province a strike among health care professionals and nurses. No one has bought the blame game. No one has listened to the government line that the Opposition members are to blame . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay knows full well that to use the word lying in here is unparliamentary, and I would ask him to retract that, please.

[Page 6179]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I said the government line, l-i-n-e.

MR. SPEAKER: Line?

MR. WILSON: Line, line. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: As a line in the sand, draw a line in the sand.

MR. WILSON: The government line.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Because I know it is unparliamentary to say lie, Mr. Speaker. I thank you for the reminder and I am very appreciative of the fact that you are listening to what I am saying. Because of the early hour of the morning, I can understand that, as well.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this government had the chance to negotiate in good faith, and it has chosen not to. Now it is everyone else's fault, what is going to happen. You can't simply suspend the rules of whatever game you are playing. If they are the rules of conduct in labour relations or if they are the Rules of the Legislative Assembly or whatever, you just can't simply suspend rules just because you don't like what is going on, and because management feels they are behind the eight ball. That is not fair representation of the people, and it is not fair play either; it is just not fair play.

What this government has embarked upon from the very beginning is not fair play in this situation. The argument that a strike by health care workers and nurses would jeopardize essential patient care assumes that essential patient care isn't already being threatened. Well, you can ask anyone, whether they be a patient or a professional who is working within the system, the patient care is already being threatened, and that is why health care workers and nurses are about to go on strike. The government of the day, the Tory Government, the Hamm Government has not heeded their emergency warnings about health care management, and the professionals working in the system - nurses and health care professionals alike - can no longer, in good conscience, share the responsibility for a situation that they have done their best to correct.

Mr. Speaker, this government has not only revealed its agenda with Bill No. 68, it has also revealed its perspective on Nova Scotians and on organizations of Nova Scotians, whether they be trade unions or political parties or non-profit groups, the list is endless. The government's vision is straight from the 1950's, a half century ago. It is ironic that not too long ago, during debate on another bill, the Minister of Community Services stands up. The minister is going to make the poor in this province poorer with Bill No. 62. That is ironic.

[Page 6180]

We have heard from other ministers during other debates, who have stood up and have talked, we hadn't heard from them much lately but ironically when it is Opposition Day and we are debating another bill, they are on their feet like a Jack-in-the-Box, they want to be heard when nobody else is around to hear them. They all know that the media wasn't here earlier this morning, they don't have much interest in covering this because they know the big story is coming up. They saw that the galleries were empty, that the nurses and the health care professionals who have been here throughout this debate, some of them had to go to work, but they are now probably so tired and preparing to go on strike that they have said, what good can we do? Although I am sure they will be back in great numbers later today. I would predict that.

Mr. Speaker, I wonder what is going through their minds right now. What is going through the minds of nurses and health care professionals who have families that they are worried about, who are worried about going out on a picket line to defend their rights, their basic right to collective bargaining, their basic right to strike, their basic rights in a democracy that does not impose things on you and shove it down your throat? What is on their minds right now at this hour of the morning? Are they bitter? Are they frustrated? Of course they are. We have been hearing from them, their frustration and their bitterness, from day one.

As they approach the hour, right now, what is going through their minds? Am I going out on a picket line? Am I going without the pay that I usually get to support my family? Why is this government forcing us to do this? Why is this government going to take away our rights? Then, if we even have the nerve to defy those rights, why would this government impose fines on us? It's $2,000 for the first day, if you don't obey this legislation, and $500 a day afterwards. The nurses and health care professionals would not have that kind of money, so they are going to have to make up their minds, whether or not they are going to stay out there and possibly face those fines, which again would put their families, their children, their wives, their husbands in financial jeopardy.

Most important of all, their concern for the patients. We have heard story after story after story - I have related some of my own personal stories involving my family - how they care about their patients. They care in a certain way you don't learn about in a school, it is not taught there, it is not taught in universities. It comes right from here, from within their hearts. They are the givers in our society. They give very freely. Of course, they get paid for it, not too many of us would work without getting paid, but the extra that they give comes from the heart, looking after their patients. Yet, this government would have the audacity and the nerve to say to those very same people, you don't care enough about those patients to provide emergency services, which is entirely wrong.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot said about polling in the days gone by, as well. We have tried to get the information from that government as to who added on those questions to that poll that was done. We have yet to find out that information. But lo and behold, in the

[Page 6181]

papers, you will now see that another poll has been done, and this was a new poll conducted for the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union.

Mr. Speaker, the results are staggering. The results show us exactly what we have been saying, exactly what the general public says, and exactly what this government has said is not the case. The poll shows that 73 per cent of the people polled, 7 in 10, say nurses are not paid enough - 7 in 10 people. If some government members over there are saying, like the member for Preston has just said, we all agree with that, well, if you agree with that then why, in the name of God, did you introduce Bill No. 68? If that is not hypocritical, to stand in this place and say you agree with the results of that poll and yet you shove Bill No. 68 down the throats of Nova Scotians, if that is not the most hypocritical thing I have ever heard, I don't know what is. (Interruptions) You should get yourself away from that picture right now, because it certainly doesn't do you any justice, to be standing by someone . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member for Glace Bay to direct his debate through the Speaker, please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the poll goes on to say . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the other honourable members to give respect to the honourable member who has the floor.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The poll goes on to say that the average indicates - Mr. Speaker, I will give the members the respect they deserve, too, as soon as they start giving it back to me. (Interruptions) Right on, to the member for Yarmouth. Right on, to the member for Yarmouth. Right on. That is about the best thing he has said so far in this whole debate. If that is all he can contribute to this debate is right on, then he may as well go back to sleep, where he spent half of the debate anyway, with the rest of the members over there. I have proven that.

Here is what Nova Scotians are saying, if that member wants to listen, three-quarters, 78 per cent of Nova Scotians say that nurses are being more fair and reasonable, (Interruption) Would the member for Yarmouth like to go on record with that comment? (Interruptions) Would you like to go on record with that comment? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Again, I would ask the honourable member for Glace Bay to direct his debate to the Chair, please, and I would ask the honourable members in the House to give the honourable member his time on the floor, please.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

[Page 6182]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, three-quarters, 78 per cent of Nova Scotians say that nurses are being more fair and reasonable than government; 86 per cent oppose forced overtime for nurses; public support for work-to-rule at 80 per cent; and 89 per cent trust nurses to provide emergency services while on work-to-rule. That is Nova Scotians who are speaking, but this is not a government that is listening.

Those poll results are there. This poll, as I understand it, is accurate to within plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. That is pretty good, normal for polls. This is not politicians talking, this is not just nurses talking, this is a poll that was done of the general public in Nova Scotia. How can you argue with that? The figures are high. I would suggest that if that government saw that they had a 73 per cent approval rating, they would be on cloud nine. They have never had one, and you can guarantee that they will never have any such thing after Bill No. 68 goes through - absolutely not.

That poll was conducted for the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. It further shows that almost all - 91 per cent - of Nova Scotians say that in their opinion there is a nursing shortage in this province, 91 per cent. The numbers just go higher. (Interruptions)

[5:45 a.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: They don't want to hear the truth over there. I think they are afraid of it.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I said, now is the time that some members of the government caucus pull out the old line, we don't believe in polls, which I think is a line that originated with John Diefenbaker, I believe, if we want to bring up that name.

What has happened here is the countdown continues with about 14 minutes left before we are into a crisis situation in this province, a crisis situation created by that government, and they know it is created by that government. What we have been asked to do, as Opposition members and the general public, is we are supposed to be good little family members and not disturb the big, tough Tories after their tough day at the office, leave them alone. As they said in their election campaign, Tories will provide, Tories have connections, and we will govern (Interruption) Tories can make tough decisions. The member for Dartmouth South is proud to sit there and say Tories will make tough decisions, and Tories will pay the price in the end. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, it is one thing to make a tough decision, it is another thing to make a smart decision. That is not what is being done.

AN HON. MEMBER: This poll says it is not very smart, what you are doing.

[Page 6183]

MR. WILSON: I can guarantee the member for Dartmouth South, who says we wouldn't be here today, I can guarantee him he won't be there the next time. I can guarantee him that, and the people of Nova Scotia will guarantee him that and guarantee the rest of his caucus members that he won't be there the next time, that is for sure.

Tories think that they can get around organized labour, that is what they are trying to do with Bill No. 68. They get around those nasty seniors that you have picked on, you get around them; and you get around those nasty disabled people that you have been picking on, who are so dependent on public funds, funds that maybe the Tories are going to use to go out there and groom little Tories, so that they grow up to be that. Oh, that is a frightening thought, but it does happen.

Tories like to think they put people in their place. That is what is wrong, people just don't know their place anymore, people like nurses and health care professionals. You don't know your place, but we are Tories, you just watch. If those nasty health care workers go on strike, then we will make a law, there has to be a law, and if not we will make one, we will make it up because we are Tories. We will apply it to everybody, not just nurses, we will apply it to anybody else who happens to go against us, because we are Tories. We will make them go to work.

Heaven help those who are uppity when the Tories are in control. The Tories will show them, we will rewrite the laws so that we make them right, the gospel according to the Tories. Do health care workers and nurses have a point? Are there really any other changes that could be made to help those health care professionals do a better job and still preserve patient care standards? Are there other points to be made? No, not according to the Tories. They know best, and if the workers aren't going to do what the Tories say, well, that is okay, they will have to go find another job somewhere.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 fails to address the most common concerns among health care professionals and nurses, and the ability to retain what nurses we have, the ability to recruit, given the working conditions that currently exist. This bill has done more to poison the health care work environment than anything else in the history of this province, anything else in the history of this province. It is this government that has created a health care crisis today, for many days and maybe many weeks and months and years to come. The government knows it. The government has failed miserably.

Mr. Speaker, the last few days kind of reminds me of scenes of watching a bully in a schoolyard, that is what it is like; helpless to stop them and unable to show how the bully, in any situation, is always the least secure. The least secure person is always the bully, the least certain, the least in control. That is why they are insecure, that is why they are bullies. It is all they have left, they no longer reason, they no longer listen, they no longer negotiate. What happens is they have to be bullies. I honestly believe that the government members

[Page 6184]

have not paused to adequately consider what is going to be irreparable damage to our health care system in this province.

Mr. Speaker, you can be guaranteed of that, I guarantee you that when the time comes today that Bill No. 68 finally passes, they will claim victory. They may not go out there and do it in public but somewhere, in some backroom, they will all be meeting to slap each other on the backs and say, "we did it, what a great job guys, what a great job, we passed Bill No. 68." We are all going to pay for the damage that has been created.

Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that this government has paused to consider the leadership and stewardship of their government in their relations with the public that we all represent by taking such extreme actions, by making it retroactive and by making it open-ended. This government is, in effect, admitting its own failure with Bill No. 68. This government's campaign commitment to the voters of Nova Scotia was that the Tory judgement and standards, their scruples and their principles and skill would lead this province to effective delivery of public services. That's what this government promised, they promised harmonic relations among stakeholders. They said we can do it all, we know how, just let us do it.

Mr. Speaker, now this government is saying, according to our plan, we can't balance the books, we can't give everyone a 10 per cent reduction in taxes and still reform health care and education and community services and still maintain fair relations with our partners, employees and others. I guess something has to go. This government has chosen to sacrifice the reputation of this province for fair relations and the century of effort our people devoted to organizing civic life, according to standards of balance and fairness of process and of reason. Those are the standards that people in this province are asking from this government, they would ask for them from any government and they should expect to get them. It is the Nova Scotian way.

Mr. Speaker, at this time, I have to caution this government against its excesses, and urge another caution, to govern yourself accordingly. Those who disagree are no less worthy. This issue is not as easy as right and wrong. We have seen some pretty heated debates in this Legislature. I will admit I have been part of them. I will be the first to admit that some of the things I have said, perhaps were said in frustration, and some of the things that other members across the way and other Opposition members have said have come from frustration and, again, in the heat of the battle. Again, because we disagree, it does not mean we are no less worthy, and that goes for health care professionals and nurses and anybody else in this province who happens to disagree with the government of the day.

Mr. Speaker, what is at stake here is the way that we treat each other, and the rules we follow to get along and the rules we follow to govern ourselves. This is not small stuff, this is not little stuff. These are things that we all aspire to, that we look to, that should be part of our normal everyday life and a higher standard that we all seek. The government, in this

[Page 6185]

case, has thrown those away with Bill No. 68. This government wants a place in history for having held tough in an important public battle.

Mr. Speaker, perhaps, one of the saddest parts, and believe me there are a lot of sad parts to Bill No. 68, is the clause that limits the effective period of the Act to March 31, 2004 . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: After an election.

MR. WILSON: After an election. After that, the Tories will know best no more, because they will get reminded that the voter is always right. That is unless, of course, the Tories decide to, along with everything else, suspend the right to vote in Nova Scotia. It may be the only thing left. All that is required, with the stroke of a pen and a Cabinet meeting, perhaps, would be to say we will no longer be going to the ballot boxes on election day in Nova Scotia because we are the Tory Government, and we know best and we rule with an iron fist.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a very sad day for me, especially as a Cape Bretoner, to stand here, because I think, without argument, perhaps, where the labour movement was born in this province was in my home, the Island of Cape Breton. I have seen time after time labour unrest in Cape Breton that was brought about because of the fact that someone was trying to rule with an iron fist. It has never worked. I have also seen people, ordinary everyday people, who will make their stand. They will make their stand and they will fight for what they think is right.

In this case, it is nurses and health care professionals across this province. It is scary. I am scared right now. I am scared of what is going to happen in this province with the passage of Bill No. 68. I, for one, and my colleagues join me, I can say that unequivocally, that we do not want this to happen. We have not wanted this to happen from the very beginning. But in no way, shape or form are we going to take the blame for what is about to happen.

Mr. Speaker, today is the 27th day of June, Sunday we will celebrate Canada Day, in a country that is as free and as democratic a country in the world as you can find, and respected throughout the world for it. What we are faced with now is that in this great country and this great province that is part of that country, we are faced with the day that democracy died in Nova Scotia. The day democracy died.

Mr. Speaker, it is with no pleasure that I announce now that a health care strike is about to begin in this province. That government is to blame for it. They are the ones who will be held responsible for putting nurses and health care professionals in this province on the street. That is shameful, that is shameful.

[Page 6186]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to speak on Bill No. 68 at third reading at the moment when health care workers are employed by the Capital Health District, who work at the QE II, are now preparing to begin their strike, to establish their picket lines and to begin the legal withdrawal of their labour as a result of the dispute ultimately with the Government of Nova Scotia.

[6:00 a.m.]

I think it is important to remember that this is the time when they decided that they would officially commence this strike. They were in a legal position to withdraw their labour as of 12:01 this morning but, as is the way and has been the way with this group of health care workers, they set a time. They gave 48 hours' notice that they would wait until 6:00 a.m., that they wouldn't go right at midnight when they were in a legal strike position, that they wanted to ensure that things were properly set up, not only were the picket lines properly set up, but that essential services were properly set up.

That's the kind of professionalism, the kind of responsibility that these workers bring again to this issue, that they brought to the whole question of negotiations right from the beginning, Mr. Speaker, and they continue to show it in the way they are handling this dispute. It is important that we recognize that they're the only ones as far as I am concerned who are showing that kind of good faith, that kind of responsibility, that kind of maturity, because certainly the government who is I guess the silent partner to the district health authority, who is bargaining on behalf of the employer, that the government I don't believe, from the evidence that I have seen, has been bargaining in good faith from the beginning.

If you look at the polling that was done through May, those questions had to be ready in April, decisions were beginning to be made at that point at least that maybe now is the time to draw the line to push the bounds of this government's commitment to back off health care workers in the province, to hold the line on bargaining, on wage settlements, and to even go so far as to take on the first set of workers in the 21st Century, to take on the first set of workers and ultimately take away their rights to bargain collectively, their right to strike, and the right of anyone affected by that agreement and by that legislation to question it, to appeal it to the courts.

I think this dispute that began 4 minutes and 17 seconds ago, Mr. Speaker, was conceived in the minds of members opposite some many months ago, and that the point at which we find ourselves today, with women and men employed in the health care system having withdrawn their labour is a point at which this government had been preparing.

[Page 6187]

It is a premeditated dispute, Mr. Speaker, the situation we find ourselves in today. I, for the life of me, can't understand what it is that this group hopes to accomplish by bringing in a bill like this that so fundamentally attacks the rights of a group of workers, any group of workers, but a group of workers who are so dedicated, so committed to helping Nova Scotians, to working with Nova Scotians to improve their quality of life.

To think that by taking away their rights, by being so disrespectful to this group of workers, that that somehow is going to help in any way with the problems that we face in the health care system - whether that is the shortage of nurses, of medical laboratory technologists, whether that is going to deal with the problems of overtime, overwork, increased aquity levels in hospitals, of patients in the long-term care sector, the increased pressures on various diagnostic services - how is it going to help to so fundamentally and so personally attack a group of women and men who dedicate their lives to the care of others? I don't understand how this government could believe that that, in fact, is the way to solve the problem.

I look in the paper again today at a huge ad being run that says $100 million on the table. It is an ad put out by the Government of Nova Scotia, paid for by the taxpayers, many of them health care workers and family members of health care workers, an ad that attacks the very integrity of health care workers. It says that the Government of Nova Scotia has put $100 million on the table and that this is a significant investment making them the highest paid nurses in Atlantic Canada which is a real cute statement, but what it doesn't say is that under the current proposal these health care workers will get over a three year period, most of them, in the area of 5.5 per cent over three years.

That is a little less than 2 per cent a year, Mr. Speaker. These are a group of workers who have had their wages frozen and rolled back over the past decade, who got a bit of an increase over the previous two years, but a group of workers who have seen their wages fall as a result of inflation, have seen their wages fall in relation to other workers in this region and in this country, and they are now at the bargaining table. That right is being taken away from them and they will not within a very short period of time, if they were to accept this wage offer, they would not be the highest paid workers in Atlantic Canada.

This government is stretching the truth at best when it makes such an inflammatory statement. What it is trying to say to Nova Scotians is these nurses, these health care workers, are lying. They're greedy. They're not satisfied with this great offer that we have given them, Mr. Speaker. It is insulting. It is disrespectful. It is demeaning and Nova Scotians, I think you would agree, expect better from their government. You know it is interesting, this $100 million figure that jumps out here, this $100 million figure that jumps out that this government says that it is investing in health care, let's remember though, first of all, that it is not enough, that ultimately these women and men have said that it is not enough to help them deal with the problems.

[Page 6188]

You may have heard in Question Period, I tabled a letter from a group of specialists, oncologists, at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, who said if the government doesn't begin to address the real, serious problems in the wage levels and the benefits that are paid to radiation technologists, that we will continue to suffer, that cancer care in the Province of Nova Scotia will suffer, because we have a shortage and because we are losing those workers that we do have, and that needs to be addressed.

The point being is that the offer on the table is not enough. Until we get an offer, not that the government thinks is fair, that both sides think is fair, we are not going to get this matter resolved. This matter is not going to be resolved. You can throw these workers in jail, you can hold them down and try to force them to obey, but I will tell you that is not going to generate any sense of commitment, any sense of investment by those workers in the health care system in this province, not one little bit.

I want to get back to the $100 million. Do you know where I am reminded of $100 million, that is the 10 per cent income tax cut this government is promising Nova Scotians in its final year, before they go to the polls. That tax cut is expected to cost them $100 million. It is ironic, is it not, Mr. Speaker and members opposite, that you are flashing around an ad like this now, saying $100 million, that is what you are putting on the table. It is the same amount of money you are going to be giving Nova Scotians back in order to try to buy your way to re-election.

I say to you that it is not going to work. It is the most cynical form of politics. Nova Scotians deserve better than that. Above all, health care workers, nurses, technicians, technologists, people who work in dietary, people who feed you when you go to the hospital, when you are sick, people who clean the laundry and ensure that everything is sterilized, who look after the equipment, who look after the tools of the trade in the medical centres, who type the letters, who ensure that the laboratory analyses are properly recorded and moved from one place to another, those people are being badly treated. If they were happy workers, if they were workers who were content, who felt that there were no problems in health care, I will tell you this, in my 25 years of working with these people I know that they wouldn't be on strike. They wouldn't be on strike.

If you go back and look in history, and I know that the Premier has been extraordinarily confused about what he was talking about when he said, first of all, the strike of 1975 and oh, I remember the strike of 1975, said the Premier, and that was such an awful time, such an awful thing, and I can't allow that to happen again, so I have to bring in Bill No. 68 to take away the right to strike, to ensure that the kind of pain, the kind of agony, the kind of disruption that was created during that strike of 1975 did not happen again. I spent some time on my feet over the past number of days talking about that strike of 1975, the nurses' strike, and how it developed as a result of decades of workers who had been under-appreciated, who had been under-compensated, who were trying to improve their profession, who were trying

[Page 6189]

to improve their working conditions, but were meeting with a deaf ear from their employer, from the government and anyone else.

Mr. Speaker, in 1974, these nurses saw their wages - even though they got an increase in 1974 of 8 per cent, inflation was running at 12.5 per cent - deteriorate at, at least, 4.5 per cent, 5 per cent annually. These workers, in 1975, were making $3.76 an hour and they weren't making any headway, so they organized themselves into a trade union, they certified under the Trade Union Act. They bargained collectively for the first time, the rights afforded them under the Trade Union Act. Ultimately, because they still weren't being listened to, after six, seven months of negotiations, they were forced to withdraw their labour. They did so, and let me tell you they got people's attention then. They got people's attention then.

[6:15 a.m.]

In 1981, a common front of health care workers, paramedical employees across the province from a number of different unions joined themselves together in what they called the common front. This is what the Premier was talking about last night when he changed his story. It wasn't the 1975 strike, it was the 1981 strike; I am going to talk about the 1981 strike. The 1981 strike was as a result of a decade of health care workers being represented by various unions, by various organizations bargaining separately to no avail, making no advances or insignificant advances in their wages and working conditions. The leadership in the health care sector, the government, was ignoring their demands, was ignoring the fact that these people are an integral part of the health care system and they need to be properly compensated for the effort that they give, for the education that they receive in order to do their work.

Until that point, that didn't happen, so, they joined together in a common front - an unprecedented event. Ultimately they did withdraw their labour, but they withdrew their labour because nobody listened, nobody paid any attention. Anybody in any position of authority, whether that is the employer or the ultimate funder, the government, they said what this group is saying now, today. Well, we can't afford to pay attention to your needs today, but be good little girls and boys and we will probably get to that at some point. These workers, these women and men, had gone through that for the past decade and they have said enough is enough. So they withdrew their labour in 1981.

In 1975, the government of the day was the Liberal Government under Premier Gerry Regan, who brought in back-to-work legislation fought strenuously at the time by the Leader of the Opposition, Tory John Buchanan. In 1981, the Premier was John Buchanan, Leader of the Tories, Leader of the government, and in 1981, guess what? John Buchanan brought in back-to-work legislation. What he also did was he set up an industrial commission, an inquiry called the Green Commission to examine the proposals of the two parties and try to find a resolve. That happened, Mr. Speaker. The commission was a tripartite body consisting of the President of Brookfield Dairy Products, Rob MacLellan; Murray Fahie from the Nova

[Page 6190]

Scotia Teachers Union; and the Chief Provincial Court Judge, Nathan Green, called the Green Commission.

Well, the Green Commission met with the two sides and they ultimately reported to Cabinet, to the Tory Cabinet, their recommendation. Their recommendation for a settlement required an offer from the settlement that was greater than that that had been offered by the NSAHO, the employer organization. Guess what? The Tories, the Tory Premier John Buchanan and his Cabinet turned their backs on that commission. The parties participated, I say to you the common front, participated with that inquiry in good faith, and when the Tories walked away, when they left that report on the shelf, those workers felt they had been betrayed once again, and they had been. They felt they had been duped to participate in a process that was never intended to work, but simply to stall.

They did withdraw their labour for some time in order to achieve some gains that had been unsuccessful. They had been badly treated for years and, again, in this dispute, badly treated by a government, by a Tory Party, who, when they were the Opposition, argued, debated the other side of the coin.

The point is that workers don't suddenly get to the point where they decide to go on strike. It is not like going to the beach, let me tell you. The decision to go on strike isn't like making the decision to go to the beach. Do I have enough juice, do I have some nibblies, do I have a blanket, do I have a towel, do I have something to carry it in, do I have a toy to play with on the beach? That is not what it is all about. Is it going to be sunny, am I going to have to have some sunscreen?

I have talked to a number of nurses and health care workers over the past number of days who have reported to me - and I know this because I have been involved with health care strikes, and I have seen what these workers go through in making this decision, they make this decision on behalf of their work, themselves and their own dignity and self-respect, they make it on behalf of their families, on behalf of their children, on behalf of their future and ultimately, on behalf of their community and the province. The decision to go on strike is a powerfully emotional decision, and let me tell you there have been many tears shed by health care workers over the last number of days.

Faced with this conundrum, do we continue to have our health care system in which we work ignored? Do we continue to allow the problems in health care to be dismissed by a government, by our employer? Do we continue to toil in a profession that is under-appreciated, that is losing people, that is losing members, that is burned out? I have talked to some people here who have children, health workers who have children in the business and they want to make that system better for their children, Mr. Speaker, and they feel ultimately that what they do is important, that the commitment that they make, the work that they have done to become skilled at what they do is important, and they feel that they should be compensated in a reasonable manner for what it is that they do.

[Page 6191]

They have been ignored. They have had their demands ignored. They have had their circumstances ignored by successive governments and they have come to the position, many of them, most of them, where they have said enough is enough, Mr. Speaker. They have said enough is enough. But those people are making a decision where they are going to walk out of that hospital, they are going to walk away from their patients and these are people who work overtime when they are exhausted, they are people who do everything within their power to be there on the spot to care for their patients. But they know in their hearts that if they don't stand up, if they don't do something, they ultimately won't have any respect for themselves, but they won't have anything left to give to their job and their job won't have anything left to give to the next health care worker, so they have to take a stand.

So there is that emotional turmoil, and there is also a great deal of fear because these people take their positions very seriously, as all workers do, I would suggest to you. I would argue that without any hesitation. Regardless of what they do, Mr. Speaker, workers take their positions very seriously. When you are a worker in this society and when you exercise what you think are your rights to withdraw your labour, your rights as laid out under the Trade Union Act, you know that you are on what is often the losing end of the balance between the bosses, the employers, the government, and the worker.

Our history is riddled with workers who have lost their jobs, who have had their livelihoods taken away, who have lost their lives in struggles over working conditions and wages and rights. There aren't very many families in the Province of Nova Scotia who don't have some history of struggle within them in terms of industrial relations. These people know that when they go out on strike, when they take a stand, that they are doing so against an employer - in this case, a government - that has the levers of power at their disposal and aren't afraid to use them, will bring in the police at will, will impose injunctions at will, will do whatever they feel is necessary to bring those workers to heel. They know that is what they face and that once they walk out they are doing so in defiance, even though it is their right to do so, they are doing so in defiance of their employer, of those people who are trying to control them, those people who are making the decisions in our society.

[6:30 a.m.]

So that is the decision, that is the point that we have reached, that they have reached today. I want to remind members opposite that this isn't a government versus union thing. I know members opposite love to set up, on the sideboard, pictures of the union bosses, those ugly old union leaders who are really the problem. If you get rid of those union bosses, they're the ones who excite and agitate and take their workers out, Mr. Speaker, they are the ones who have too much power.

I want to remind members opposite that not only is that an ugly, an inaccurate, an insulting caricature of what the trade union movement is all about, but in this case especially, if you think you are taking on "the union" or that your issue is with "the union", you are

[Page 6192]

wrong. You see, you are way off base because the union, in both cases here, the NSNU and the NSGEU took the last offer that they received, took those offers in those cases to the membership and recommended that they be accepted.

So in those cases, they were onside, the union administration, the bargaining team, the leadership. But you see, what you fail to realize in far too many cases - and people fall into this trap - is that unions are extremely democratic. They are one of the most democratic organizations in society. No matter what their leadership says, ultimately the decision is made by the membership, by a secret ballot, and in each one of these instances, Mr. Speaker, and members opposite, the union recommended settlement, recommended that workers vote in agreement, but the workers said no, we have had enough. We are not going to take it anymore. This isn't good enough. The government can't keep crying poor-mouth to us, can't keep asking us to pay again and again and again when we know that they are real quick to come up with millions of dollars for the likes of the Michelins and the Sobeys and the Scotia Banks and the call centre companies and anyone else.

We know that the revenues from the federal government and other sources have been underestimated to the tune of nearly $280 million this year alone. We know - say these health care workers - that this government is planning to buy their way to re-election through a tax reduction in their final year before they go to the polls. So what these health care workers are saying - not the union - the individual women and men who, if you are in a hospital, provide your food or take your blood pressure or launder the bedclothes on your bed, the people who maintain and look after the equipment that does the diagnostic, those people, those women and men - think of them, look at them, they're mothers, sisters, grandmothers and neighbours - those women and men have said individually as people they voted how they felt and they said this isn't enough.

I asked specifically, and particularly I asked one health care worker, a medical laboratory technologist at the Law Amendments Committee, who is a member of the NSGEU, I said to her, you voted against that mediated settlement so what would it take and do you know what she said to me? She said do you know what, we probably would have accepted that offer, we probably would have accepted that deal if this government hadn't come ramrodding in like a bunch of schoolyard bullies with Bill No. 68 and said take it or leave it.

AN HON. MEMBER: My way or the highway.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: These workers said who do you people think you are, you are not going to tell us again what we should or shouldn't do. You are not going to dictate to us what is fair and what isn't fair - that's what these workers said, that's what that woman said to me. She said I was so angry I voted against that deal even though I probably would have accepted. I was so incensed by Bill No. 68 and what it said, and it didn't help of course that the Minister of Health and the Premier were running around saying you can't trust

[Page 6193]

nurses, you can't trust health care workers. That didn't help much either, but you put it all together and what you get is 37 minutes, nearly 38 minutes now, of health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia being on strike. That's what you get, Mr. Speaker.

You talk about responsible workers. Frankly, let me say this. I think in some categories in some unions and some groups that these workers go beyond the pale in terms of trying to be managers as well as workers and that the two don't mix and that they give and they keep on giving and they're taken advantage of as a result. They have certain rights and they should just exercise them, but in many cases workers are, well they're who they are and in this case, Mr. Speaker, we have talked to the nurses outside here, and there has been some considerable discussion in the media and by this government over cancelled surgeries, elective surgeries, of cancer patients and others, and we have listened to these people, we've seen the tears and the anguish, of them and their families, that their surgeries have been cancelled, and this government is blaming it and the Capital Health District is blaming it on the impending labour dispute. Let's blame the workers once again.

That's the real problem, they forget the fact that last month there were over 500 elective surgery cancellations at the QE II alone. It had nothing to do with the impending labour dispute, it simply had to do with lack of resources and, I would suggest, mismanagement, Mr. Speaker, by this government, but what the nurses were saying to us was, you know, they've got operating rooms shut down at the VG site and nurses are standing around, and technicians and technologists who look after the equipment and maintain the equipment and do the diagnostic work, they're standing around and their managers are trying to encourage them to take vacations because these people are standing around with their hands in their pockets. The nurses are saying, what are you doing? You can't cancel these surgeries and you don't need to because we're here. These people need to be treated.

So do you know what they have done, Mr. Speaker? The NSGEU have worked with the employer, the Capital Health District, to ensure that those surgeries that have been cancelled are done today. They have guaranteed, regardless of what happens, that there will be enough trained staff available to carry out these surgeries. Who did that? The nurses did that; the union did that; the health care workers in that bargaining unit did that. They said this has to happen, there's no reason for this not to, and they took it in their own hands and made sure it did. Some of them said to me in the wee hours this morning that if those surgeries are cancelled it is because the employer, this government, are using those people as political pawns in this dispute, it is clear, and it can't happen and they won't let it happen and we're going to make sure that Nova Scotians know from one end of this province to the other if this government tries that kind of foolishness.

So here we are, Bill No. 68. You know, Mr. Speaker, I don't think many members opposite have a lot of understanding about industrial relations, collective bargaining - and fair enough - although I wish they had taken the time to find out because it is a very delicate

[Page 6194]

balance. You have heard members opposite say, well, we can't have patients, Nova Scotians held hostage by health care workers. Well, in 1981, following the dispute in the 26 hospitals, the withdrawal of labour of all those paramedical workers, the Buchanan Government considered compulsory arbitration in return for removing the right to strike by designating health care workers, essential service employees but as is often the case, there were very conscious decisions made by that government, by the employer.

You see, invariably the employers, whether they're private sector or public sector, will say, don't legislate, let us negotiate. Let us sort it out at the negotiating table because they believe that in the final analysis they will get a better deal and it will be a deal that is more readily accepted than one that is imposed by an independent arbitrator.

So the point is, Mr. Speaker, that we are at this point 20 years later where health care workers have the right to strike as a result, as a direct consequence of very conscious decisions by governments since that time. Now, for this group to suddenly decide that health care workers are going to be essential, that health care workers are going to lose their right to strike in exchange for nothing is outrageous, frankly. It is absolutely outrageous. There is a balance. It is sometimes referred to as the conflict and compromise of bargaining and there are trade-offs.

[6:45 a.m.]

Let's be frank, collective bargaining in the industrial relations, rights arbitration, interest arbitration, is a very heavily regulated process. It is a very legalized process where there are rules, there are timelines for everything. Workers can't go on strike during the terms of a collective agreement. Workers can only withdraw their labour at certain times. It is against the law to do this, it is against the law to do that but, you see, in exchange for that regulation there is still somewhat of a balance. The employer can't lock out workers, only during certain times, at certain periods and in certain ways, Mr. Speaker. The employer must follow certain rules as well. So there's a balance. There is somewhat of a balance. It is highly regulated. It is very constrained and restricts the employer as well as the employees, but it is something that has been agreed to by those parties.

For you to move in and to try to just completely upset that balance is going to create all kinds of problems. What has traditionally happened in this country, around the world, is when you take the right to strike away from a group of workers, that you have to replace the process of collective bargaining with something because what you're doing by taking away the right to strike is you are removing any incentive that the employer might have to bargain fairly and responsibly. That's what striking is all about. That's what lockouts are all about. They are the ultimate weapon by the employer or the employees, the withdrawal of the labour, the shutting down of the workplace, and they are meant to be strategies that either side can employ to try to force the other side, to try to influence the other side to come to a point of decision and that's how collective bargaining is done.

[Page 6195]

If you do like this government has done, I mean this government has said that with Bill No. 68 on the table, oh, look, we haven't gotten in the way of collective bargaining, we hope, you know, the sides go to the table. Well, what incentive is there now that Bill No. 68 is on the table for the employer to try to deal in any substantive way with the issues that are outstanding? What incentive is there? You see, they can just sit back and cool their heels and say we are not going to do any better than what we've already said because we know that our pals back here, the ghost at the table, the silent one, the government, is just going to impose what we want anyway. So we will just cool our jets.

You see, Mr. Speaker, the incentive for the employer to bargain responsibly and in good faith is removed and has been removed. That is what is so vile about Bill No. 68 and why Bill No. 68 has been an obstacle, has been a very real and significant obstacle to these matters being resolved freely and in a timely way but, again, if this government is dead set on taking the rights of these workers away, these rights to strike away, then they have to look at industrial relations experience that has developed over a century and a half in this province and in this country that says you have to recognize that if the balance is upset, if you take away the right of one side to exercise its power, its influence, then you need to make some adjustments to the process.

Mr. Speaker, that is generally in the form of binding arbitration, where both sides to the agreement present what they think is a fair and reasonable offer. Sometimes there is a negotiation between those two offers, and it could be the arbitrator just picks between one or the other. The point is that it is an independent third party who looks at the facts, and the parties are obliged to present the facts. The government hasn't done that. The government doesn't seem willing to do that. I would suggest to you that there is not a worker in the Province of Nova Scotia who is going to sit by and allow their rights to be trampled upon the way the rights of these health care workers have been trampled upon.

Not only do you now have a group of health care workers on the picket line who are upset about wages and working conditions and their dignity and self-respect, but you have people who feel that this government has imposed a situation upon them that they have had no control over whatsoever. So, for 52 minutes, these workers have been somewhere that they don't want to be. They are in a situation they don't want to be in, and they are getting angrier and angrier. It is 52 minutes and 28 seconds, 29 seconds, 30 seconds; every second that ticks by, these women and men are getting angrier and angrier. They are getting angry at this government, they are getting angrier and angrier at Bill No. 68.

Let me tell you that this doesn't just affect the Capital Region, this affects Yarmouth, this affects Amherst, this affects Springhill, it affects the hospitals throughout the South Shore, throughout Cape Breton; wherever the members opposite go, they are going to be faced with health care workers or families or friends or neighbours of health care workers who are absolutely and utterly opposed to Bill No. 68, and the way this government has decided to treat these workers.

[Page 6196]

There is no public support for Bill No. 68. It is wrong-headed; it is immoral; it is unfair; it is disrespectful; it is cowardly; and it is reckless. Ultimately, it is reckless. We have serious problems in our health care system. The Premier talked about it and I talked about it, when we were running for election in 1999. Health care workers and Nova Scotians, at least 39 per cent of them anyway, supported the plan that this government had. Let me tell you what, there was nothing in that plan that said we are going to take away the rights of health care workers. What it said was that they were going to fix the problem.

The problems haven't been fixed. The problems can't be fixed overnight. You need to recognize that in order to fix these problems, you need to make investments in the people who work, who toil, who make the health system run. If you ignore them, and this government has, then you have lost an integral part of the problem-solving mechanism that was available to you to overcome, in the long term, the challenges facing the health care system in this province.

Mr. Speaker, my time is winding up. I have had a fair bit to say about Bill No. 68. Let me say to you that what troubles me most about Bill No. 68 is that I don't get it. I just simply don't get it. I can understand this government being anti-union, that is not a surprise. I can understand this government being pigheaded, being stubborn. It comes from the top and goes right down. But I can't understand this government being stupid, because Bill No. 68 is stupid. It will not accomplish what you think it is going to accomplish, it won't accomplish anything positive, anything constructive. It will make matters worse.

Ultimately, you are treating a group of women and men, thousands of health care workers - all of you know health care workers and have them in your families - with the ultimate disrespect, because you are telling them, through the provisions of Bill No. 68, you are taking away their right to bargain, their right to strike, their right to even take issue with your decisions as government, you are telling them that they don't know any better, that you, ultimately, in government know what is right for these women and men.

Mr. Speaker, that is the ultimate insult, I think, to these people. The ultimate insult to these workers is the arrogance with which this government is conducting itself on Bill No. 68. This idea that these people, most of them are women, let's be clear, that this government is patting these women on the head and saying, we know, we really know what is better for you and you may not like it but just go do your job. I am telling you something right now, it ain't going to fly. You have stuck your finger in a hornet's nest. You have created some real problems, and you can throw all these women in jail if you want, but these women are not going to go back to work without a fight. These women are not going to put up with this group over here dictating to them what is right and what isn't right, and what they can say and what they can't say, and what they can do and what they can't do.

[Page 6197]

They are not going to accept it, they are going to fight you. They are going to fight you at the barbecues; they are going to fight you in the health care system; they are going to fight you in your towns; they are going to fight you across this province; they are not going to take this, regardless of how many police cart them away, regardless of how insulting you people continue to be. These women and men are not going to take this lying down. The repercussions are going to be felt, not just by you but by all of us, by this province, by this health care system for years into the future, because that has been our history. The book that the Premier holds up, the strike of 1975, the strike of 1981, this strike dates back then and it dates back even farther because that is what happens.

Mr. Speaker, you learn from your history or you are doomed to repeat it, and that is what this government is doing. They are wrong, and I am voting against Bill No. 68 on behalf of health care workers in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is 7:00 o'clock in the morning. It is Wednesday, June 27th. We are now currently into one hour of a legal strike by the health care workers in the capital district here in this province. What a flashback to 1999. I remember standing in my place, again, giving the time. I believe then it was just past 11:00 o'clock, and the paramedics could go on strike at midnight. I remember pointing out what the government was doing to try to prevent that from happening.

[7:00 a.m.]

Now, this morning, the question is what is the government doing to try to put an end to the strike that is taking place. We now know that certainly the Minister of Health is not doing very much. He is sitting here in this House while a strike takes place all around him - there is responsibility; there is leadership. What about the Minister of Justice, the one in charge of our justice system here in this province, given the Great Seal and entrusted to make sure that the safety of all Nova Scotians is protected? What is he doing in the first hour of the strike? He is not doing very much either. He is sitting here chit-chatting with the Minister of Finance, they don't seem to be very concerned. The Minister of Finance doesn't seem to be very concerned. And they continue to talk about the health and safety of Nova Scotians and how they fear the strike, but if the look on their faces this morning is that of fear, it is an awfully funny-looking fear. I am not quite sure what the Premier is doing, maybe he is doing something about this, or maybe he is concerned about this. I can't really be sure.

[Page 6198]

But once again, in the paramedic strike, they did absolutely nothing to stop the strike other than to try to ram through the bill to take away their right to strike. What do we see with Bill No. 68? The same old Tory strategy. Just wait it out; just sweat it out; stay here in Province House, have members sit 24 hours a day . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Hunker down.

MR. SAMSON: . . . and just wait. The member says "hunker down" and I think that is an appropriate term. I am not sure if they have the bomb shelter to go hide in afterwards when there is a strike happening all around them.

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, this, now being the sixth occasion I have had to stand in this House on Bill No. 68, this government has truly become an absolute disgrace, not only in this province, but because of the magnitude of what they have done to our health care system they have become a disgrace throughout our entire country, as the national media continues to report daily. Not only is what they are doing to the health care workers and nurses of this province unconscionable, to say the least, and unprincipled to say the least, we see what they are doing to the democratic traditions of this House, trampling upon them time and time again in trying to ram through Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, I know you have mentioned on a few occasions during this debate how concerned you were are about setting precedents, dangerous precedents that would be set in this House that would then be followed. Well I have to tell you it is unfortunate you could not be here to deal with the very dangerous precedent which was allowed to take place by the [Deputy] Speaker last night, which is why we are here this morning debating Bill No. 68.

You know yourself that the Rules of this House are quite clear, and the traditions show that Wednesdays of each week are set aside as Opposition Day, the hours of 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., followed by late debate. The one day set aside under our democratic rules to ensure that there is at least one day where the Opposition of this province can do the business of the people of Nova Scotia which the government refuses to do. It is the one opportunity for the Opposition to bring forward bills and resolutions and ideas that the government has not shown interest in debating, the one opportunity where change might be elicited by this government on behalf of Nova Scotians. Yet, last night, this Tory Government, having shown how much they are willing to trample on the rights and on the Rules of this House, went against the traditions and Rules of this House by calling for government debate on Opposition Day.

Mr. Speaker, I know you are sincere when you say you are very concerned about setting precedents, but out of all the concerns raised, what more of a dangerous precedent is that than to allow the government to call business on Opposition Day?

[Page 6199]

The Government House Leader refers to a rule, a notwithstanding rule, never been used before, but that is what he used. I kind of laughed, thinking this morning what I would say, and I remembered studying in law school how - and I still don't think Halifax Regional Municipality has changed it but - as it now stands on the books, there is still a law saying that you are permitted to have cattle roaming on the Halifax Commons for grazing purposes. It is with hesitancy I raise that in this House because I fear the House Leader may tell the Minister of Agriculture that there is a beautiful community pasture and maybe we should bring cattle - when he's done making Web sites - and put them on the Halifax Commons. I remember speaking to a colleague this morning who asked, when was that rule passed, and I said I believe it is an old bylaw from the 1700's or the 1800's. They said, tongue-in-cheek, I think that is right around the same time the Government House Leader was first elected.

Mr. Speaker, where are the Rules of this House when a government can go in and say that not only are we not going to allow the Opposition to have its full day, we are going to ram through our business on that day. A government that has forced the Opposition to sit 24 hours a day, which we have done. As I said before, I believe it was 3:00 a.m., 5:00 a.m., 6:00 a.m., now 7:00 a.m. and I spoke at 11:00 a.m., not that I am very much of a morning person but it just happened those were the hours on the six occasions I have spoken.

Not only have they taken the day of the Opposition, it would have been offensive enough had they tried to do it after the Opposition's regular day - we will tack on government business. One could have even argued that maybe that should have been allowed. I believe the rules would have allowed them four hours after Opposition. Instead, it wasn't enough for this government. It wasn't bad enough they violated that rule, they went so far as to say, we will sit from 12:01 a.m., starting with Opposition business. Question Period took place around 3:00 a.m.

Is that a precedent, Mr. Speaker, you want to see continue in this House? What is there to stop the Government House Leader, when the House resumes in the fall, from doing the same thing on Opposition Day? There is a precedent now. The Premier of this province made it quite clear last night what the message was - we tried to screw the Opposition in the Law Amendments Committee, didn't work, backfired. Because the Speaker at that time wouldn't allow that to take place - he censured the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of this province for violating the privileges of the members of this House. Yet, last night, we had the Deputy Speaker, a member who sits in the Tory caucus meetings, a member who is extremely partisan, a member who made a ruling saying that he knew what the motion would be prior to it even taking place. He already knew what it was going to be. He had already made his decision.

Then in the anger, naturally, that came from the Opposition, the Premier went one step further and came over to the Liberal side and said, by the way, here is payback for what you guys did at the Law Amendments Committee. Here is payback. The message was quite clear. I would certainly hope, Mr. Speaker - I know you are occupied right now - that the

[Page 6200]

commitment made last night, that a ruling on the point of personal privilege by the member for Dartmouth East, will be made before this House rises today. I can tell you now, I can serve notice now that there will be serious objections raised if there is an attempt to have this House rise today before that ruling is made. But, once again, it shows Nova Scotians there is no depth this government won't go.

I find it quite ironic in what this government has done to our democratic rules here in the last few days, because, ironically, late next week, I will be attending a conference of French parliamentarians in Quebec. In fact, the Canadian representative, Member of Parliament Dr. Bernard Patry, who represents the Canadian section of the Assemblée de parlementaire en Francais, called me and said, one of the things happening at our conference is that we will be having the first-ever French Youth Parliament. And, he said, I would like you to be the co-chair of that Youth Parliament. It is a tremendous honour to say the least, I certainly look forward to going there and to be able to be the co-chair representing the Canadian section. Yet how ironic it will be for me to stand in front of representatives of 48 different countries - youth, people who come from many countries where democracy is still questionable, they are not all completely democratic states, yet I have to stand there and say how proud I am of the democracy here in Nova Scotia.

I am wondering if the member for Kings North maybe could write me up a few notes that I could read. I will translate them. For me to say what a wonderful democracy we have based on the last sitting we have had - I know he likes to write a lot - maybe he could write and tell me what I should say about our democracy here in this province, to tell these young people from 48 countries how proud we should be of Nova Scotia's democracy and how proud we should be of having John Hamm as our Premier and the respect that he has shown to this democratic institution, the respect he has shown to Nova Scotians and to the health care workers and nurses of this province. I would challenge him to provide me with that because I would really like to see what he would write. I think he would have a hard time - as I will - to talk about what wonderful rules we have here when a majority government can trample on the Rules of this House.

I know that on the issue of whether the House Rules should apply to committees, you have indicated you wanted the Assembly Matters Committee to sit. I believe that is a good idea and we need to have specified rules. Mr. Speaker, as I said, I know you are not the one who made that decision last night to allow the government to call business on Opposition Day and I would invite you to review that decision because if that is the precedent that is going to be set in this province, then get rid of Opposition Day. Because it is just a farce. If we come back here in the fall and the Government House Leader can stand and say Opposition Day will be from 12:01 a.m. for four hours until 4:01 a.m., then get rid of Opposition Day. Let's not have a farce here in this province. There are enough farces that have gone on in the last few weeks.

[Page 6201]

It will be extremely interesting to see publications such as the Canadian Commonwealth or the Commonwealth Federation, I am very interested to see if they are watching these proceedings. I am interested to see what kind of columns will show up in there. Art Donahoe, who heads up one of these Commonwealth committees, I wonder, he having been a Speaker of this House for so long, whether he will stand and say how proud he is to see what is happening in this province right now with Bill No. 68.

I think all of us in this House have a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. Donahoe. I was not here, elected in this House, but certainly an observer of politics. In fact, I can say, I met Mr. Donahoe on a couple of occasions because we had a model Parliament at our high school and he would very graciously agree each year that we had it, to come down and to act as Speaker for our model Parliaments. I can tell you, he carried himself in the same distinguished manner at our model Parliaments as he carried himself within this Chamber. But what would he think of the Deputy Speaker's ruling last night? What would he think of those actions? What would he think of a Premier crossing the floor and telling the Opposition, this is payback. We tried to screw you at Law Amendments and it didn't work, well, we are going to do it tonight and he did.

[7:15 a.m.]

Nova Scotians have all seen what has happened. The nurses who have sat in these galleries, who will probably sit in these galleries today, will all know what this government has done, to take the day set aside for the Opposition, after having the Opposition sit 24 hour days, and then say we are going to call business, not only after Opposition business has taken place, we are actually going to set the hours of the Opposition Day and then continue to go on with government business.

As I said before - Mr. Speaker, I think you have said it yourself - this rule and this precedent that has been set may suit the front benches and the backbenchers of the Tory Government today, but as many members have said, one day you won't be sitting on that side. You will eventually be sitting on this side and then you may question the precedent that you set and how effective it is for each and every one of you as to what the government has allowed and what the Deputy Speaker has allowed to be done on Opposition Day.

One might even argue this morning that Question Period and the business of the Opposition was almost irrelevant because which Nova Scotian is watching from between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m.? What Nova Scotian is seeing what their Opposition members are doing on Opposition Day to raise the issues that the government chooses not to discuss? It was an affront to democracy. It was an affront to the traditions of this House and I can't say again how disappointed I am that you, Mr. Speaker, were not here to make a ruling on such an important issue and we had to rely on a Deputy Speaker who sits as a caucus member of the government caucus, the Tory caucus. It is such an important decision that changes the precedents of this House and that you were not here to make that. I find that

[Page 6202]

extremely disturbing and certainly hope that the Speaker might afford us the opportunity to tell us exactly why, in light of such an important decision, he was not here to make that ruling clear for this House.

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the 6:00 a.m. radio report before I came down and there were two messages: Government rolls roughshod over the Rules of the House; and Chaos in the health care system. Who is responsible for both? It is the Premier, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health. For any backbencher - and I have spoken and I have appealed to the backbenchers, I know many of my colleagues have appealed to the backbenchers - any backbencher who leaves today when Bill No. 68 is passed thinking our health care system is okay and all is well, would be a complete fool. Why don't I just write fool on your forehead now and get it over with.

This government has lost control over the health care system in Nova Scotia. There is chaos in the system today, it will be there tomorrow and it will be there for a long time until this government shows respect to the health care workers. Mr. Speaker, the government says how much it fears a strike. I think everyone is concerned about a strike, but even after you pass Bill No. 68 and you order them back to work, when a strike happens, you can visually see who is on strike. You can count which one of your workers is not coming to work, but when you start with work-to-rule and refusal of overtime and refusal of coming in on holidays, those you can't see, those you can't predict, but, by God, those are the ones that are going to cripple this system that is already crippled right now because of Bill No. 68.

The Minister of Health is not going to have a good summer because this is going to continue throughout the summer and the Minister of Justice, Minister of Finance and the honourable Government House Leader, they can go home and say my job is done, I got Bill No. 68 through. But the chaos in our health care system will continue. What you have put in these taxpayer ads about long line-ups in emergency rooms and nursing shortages and beds being closed, that is not going to end with Bill No. 68. The sad part is that it is only the beginning and it is going to get worse. The problem is you won't see it happening. You won't be able to say tomorrow, I know that these five nurses won't accept overtime or that they will be out on a picket line with their pickets where I can watch them. You are not going to know that. You won't know which ones will not answer the phone to come in for overtime. You won't know which ones won't work through their breaks or their lunch hours.

If you think Bob Smith, the CEO of the Capital District Health Authority, after Bill No. 68 is passed, is going to say, everything is okay. All trust has been restored in the system and everything is working fine. Once again, you would be a fool to believe that. Nova Scotians know that this is just the beginning. The member for Halifax Atlantic spoke quite passionately about the idea of respect and it is just not going to work this time. You are not going to get away with what you are doing. You have caused chaos in the health care system and you have no one to blame but yourself. Were there problems before? Yes. Were there

[Page 6203]

deficiencies before? Yes. Was there a lack of funding before? Yes. We all know that, but the chaos that has been created today is unprecedented.

As I said before, for those watching and for those who are here, it is 7:22 a.m., one hour and 22 minutes into a legal strike, not only of health care workers, but yesterday we learned that nurses in the Capital District Health Authority will be respecting that picket line and not reporting for duty. Yet, where is the Minister of Health right now? What is he doing to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians who can't get through that picket line or whose surgery may have been cancelled or who can't get in for their blood work? He is sitting right here in this House not doing anything to address that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable member that he is not to make the presence or absence of a member in this House known during his debate. I ask the honourable member not to do that in the future, please.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I understand the absence and how it would be unparliamentary . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If you are going to question the ruling of a Speaker, according to Paragraph 481of Beauchesne, it says, " . . . that a Member, while speaking, must not: (c) refer to the presence or absence of specific Members." So I would ask the honourable member to refrain from that in his debate.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I was not questioning your ruling, I was simply indicating that I was aware that it was unparliamentary to point out the absence of a member, but pointing out the presence but if that is the ruling, certainly, I will respect it. It is good to see that the rules of this House are being enforced and being respected. I certainly have no intentions of not respecting them.

Nova Scotians have to ask themselves, a government that has said so much about their health and safety, what are they doing now? What is the plan now? It is an hour and 24 minutes into a strike. What are they doing? What is the Minister of Health doing? What is the Premier doing, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice, the honourable Government House Leader, the entire Cabinet? Are they meeting in the Cabinet Room? Are they having discussions? Are they being updated on the strike? Are they working on a contingency plan? Are they figuring out how they are going to operate Bill No. 68 once it gets passed? What are they doing? That is a good question.

AN HON. MEMBER: Nothing.

[Page 6204]

MR. SAMSON: One member says nothing, but what are they doing? Do we hear them with regular updates on the radio saying here is what we are doing, we have a plan, we have a vision? We are not hearing that because that would be a falsehood because this government has clearly shown that it has no vision and it has no plan. It is a government by disaster. We react in Tory fashion with the hammer, when there is a looming disaster. Guess what? Who creates the disasters they react to? No one other than themselves.

I want to take this opportunity to review a few of the facts. It is interesting. The Government House Leader told the press yesterday, stick around because the story changes by the hour. How true that is, how the story has changed from when the bill was tabled to what we have today, the misinformation provided not only to members of this House but to all Nova Scotians, especially to the nurses and health care workers most affected by this bill. The ads have been clearly misleading, that has been proven, that has been debated. I would even say that it has been agreed to by the government that it was misleading, and they were aware of the concerns we raised. The ads began, and it is unfortunate I don't have the first one, Health and safety, we can't have a strike. Health and safety, health and safety, that is all we kept hearing. The Premier talked about 1975, well he talked about that more in the last few days.

Now the ads have changed. I will read for you. Well, here, I am glad my colleague, the member for Glace Bay, is very helpful, it said:

A health care strike, the risk is too great. Over 9,000 provincial nurses and health care workers are talking strike action. It is now a matter of health and safety. A strike would dramatically impact every hospital, every clinic in every community across Nova Scotia. It would mean emergency room closures, early patient discharges, bed closures, increased waiting lists, restriction of services to "life and limb" situations. We simply can't afford a strike. We want to assure all Nova Scotians that we will maintain the integrity of our health care system now and into the future. Then it ends saying, the health and safety of Nova Scotians must be protected.

The Chronicle-Herald, June 14, 2001.

Does the member for Kings North or any member over there see anything here about finances or about money? There is nothing here about money, it is health and safety. That is what Bill No. 68 is all about, health and safety. What other message could there be? June 14th.

Today is June 27th. What does it say today? One hundred million dollars on the table. Now, let's hear about health and safety in this ad. What does this say?

[Page 6205]

"100 Million . . . On The Table.

We've put $100 million on the table for Nova Scotia nurses and health care workers. This significant investment includes making Nova Scotia nurses the highest paid in Atlantic Canada.

It's an investment that shows how much we value our health care workers. We'd like to do more, but we can't. Simply put, we've offered as much as our taxpayers can afford.

And so, while we work together to resolve the issues at hand, we must focus on our common ground . . .

patients come first.

The health and safety of Nova Scotians must be protected."

Well, there is that little line at the end, patients come first. But here is the real face. I think the member for Kings North can recognize it, and the rest of his colleagues. It is all about money. It is all about the Finance Minister's fiscal agenda. Had you argued that from day one, you may have had credibility. If he had said, look, here's the books, I can't afford any more, we can't pay any more. No, that is not the Tory way. Don't admit what your real concern is, say it is health and safety and try to sell it as health and safety. Then you go on to say nurses can't be trusted to provide essential services, or health care workers. Once again, the Tory PR strategy, a complete flop and a complete disaster.

Now you have lost credibility with everyone on both health and safety and on the finances, because no one trusts you on either of them. You have lost credibility. No one is buying it anymore. Yet, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, you have sat on this side, you were here, the Minister of Finance was here, the Minister of Justice was here, the Minister of Health was here, the House Leader was here, you were all here saying how your caucus was opposed to the fact that the MacLellan Government had used small ads to inform people about concerns in the Department of Health. Political advertising is what they called it, that is what your Party called it, and said we will not do that, a John Hamm Government will not use taxpayers' dollars for political advertising.

Yet, I remember our ads, they were maybe one-eighth of a page and they ran, maybe, a couple of times, and then we stopped. This government, what did I read, that first ad, well, that is June 14th, and I am not saying that was the first ad, I don't believe it was the first day. Here we are at June 27th, every single day since June 14th, at least, your government has been running ads. They started off a little smaller, but now they are half-page ads. I am told they cost anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 a pop.

[Page 6206]

[7:30 a.m.]

I would like the member for Kings North to do an article and to talk about the Hamm Government as a Third Party, the Tory Government as a Third Party, and the Tory Party under John Hamm, and to speak about the oath of conscience, principles and integrity, and to justify how he explains those actions. How hypocritical of a government that said in this House, and is on record saying, that this is political advertising, we will not do it, and yet it has done it right through - misinformation - and it continues to do that.

The members of the backbench sit there quietly and say, oh well, we checked our integrity at the door. There are no concerns about that, we will sit here silently, disappear for some votes, reappear, do our magical act, and yet we continue to sit here and justify a government that uses taxpayers' dollars for this campaign, then turns around and tells nurses there is no more money. Yet somehow they have been able to find thousands and thousands of dollars for this misleading advertising campaign. I don't know. I don't know how you justify it. I don't know how they are going to go back to their ridings and say it was all part of their plan, I agree with it, I support what was done. I don't know how they are going to do it.

The facts also show us, the government argued, look, we bargained in good faith, we were just too far apart, we couldn't come to a deal. The first bargaining unit that could go on strike, the one which is on legal strike today is the health care workers in the Capital District, in the Nova Scotia Government Employees' Union. That was the one they had to be most concerned about, that was the one coming up first. So, they are at the bargaining table, the government comes back and says, look, we are miles apart, we can't get an agreement, it is impossible. The pressure is put on; the Minister of Labour appoints a mediator, Mr. Bruce Outhouse. The government says, good luck, you are not going to be able to do anything, we are too far apart. That is what they told Nova Scotians, he'll never get a deal. Yet, 48 hours later, there is an agreement on the table that the union bargaining team is prepared to recommend to their membership. The member for Kings North knows that, the members of the backbench all know that. They know those facts.

It went against the government plan, that is the whole story. If you don't realize that now, once again, you would be a fool not to realize that. It was part of the plan from day one, yet Mr. Outhouse threw a monkey wrench, as they would say, into their plans. He threw a piece of wood into the spokes of their bicycle, a sudden jerk. It wasn't the plan, he was not supposed to be able to get an agreement, at least not nearly as quickly as he did. Once he had an agreement, and once it was prepared to go to a vote by the membership, your government immediately had to do something to stop that vote from taking place or to make sure that vote would not be in the affirmative. Other than that, we had a deal. There would be no strike today. It would have been averted.

[Page 6207]

But that just wasn't part of the House Leader's plan or the Minister of Finance's plan or the Minister of Justice's plan or the Premier's plan, it wasn't part of it. They were not supposed to be reasonable. That was the PR spin, nurses and health care workers are patently unreasonable and are asking too much. They were not supposed to come to an agreement.

Yet, before they can even go vote, the government tables Bill No. 68 that takes away their right to strike and allows Cabinet to impose an agreement. How can you bring in Bill No. 68, when they have not even voted on the agreement reached with the mediator, Mr. Bruce Outhouse? How can you justify that? The Minister of Health can't justify that, he knows that. He knows he cannot stand in this House and say there was a reason why we brought Bill No. 68, there was one reason and one reason only - to make sure that that vote was negative.

This is not just my own ramblings here about my own theories. At the Law Amendments Committee presenters came and told us, we would have voted for that mediated agreement if it hadn't been for Bill No. 68. What happened? The government knew it had a mediated agreement, it knew that the bargaining unit was going to recommend it to its membership, there had been favourable feedback, yet, you brought in Bill No. 68 before they could even vote. Then, the biggest fear at that point was that they would have still voted yes because it would have still gone against your PR plan to say that nurses and health care workers are patently unreasonable and that is why we need to not allow them to strike, but even further than that, to impose a contract by Cabinet.

You got your wish. They did vote no, because Bill No. 68 was so offensive that they said we are not going to allow this government to trample all over our rights like this. Although we agree with the money on the table and with the mediated settlement, we will vote no to send a message to this government, you will not treat us with such disrespect and expect us to sit back and take it. Then, what happens after that? The Law Amendments Committee, the Minister of Justice threatens to cut it off. There is just not enough time to pass the bill, he says, before a strike. Again, was he sitting at the table during this? No. He is not at the table. They are not negotiating.

The Premier makes a mockery of all Nova Scotians by saying I still want a negotiated settlement at the table, and they are not even sitting there. What more of a mockery is it than that? The idea that today, at 7:38 a.m., an hour and 38 minutes into a strike, the strike that they said would devastate our health care system, what are they doing right now to deal with it? They are doing absolutely nothing. Absolutely nothing, other than sitting and waiting, watching the clock tick away until Bill No. 68 can be passed. Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. Isn't that the message? The message the backbenchers ran on, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course.

[Page 6208]

AN HON. MEMBER: Open and accountable government.

MR. SAMSON: Open and accountable. I have to tell you, we haven't seen the strong leadership yet, and it is going to take an awful lot of paving from the Minister of Transportation and Public Works before it becomes a clear course, because it is an awfully bumpy course right now and there appear to be a lot of twists and turns and a lot of drains and cliffs along the way that the government seems to be finding at every turn.

So, they threatened to cut off the Law Amendments Committee. Joan Jessome comes in, the head of the NSGEU, and says, look, we are sincere when we say we want not only membership but Nova Scotians to be allowed to be heard at the Law Amendments Committee. We will now give you an agreement that we will withhold our 48 hour strike notice if you allow presenters to continue to come before the Law Amendments Committee. Now the government is backed in a corner. Now what do you do? You said you didn't want to allow the Law Amendments Committee because you didn't have time, you feared a strike. Here she gives you the way out. Now what do you say?

The Minister of Justice says, look, I don't trust that crew. I never trusted them from day one. I don't trust them now. These big bad nurses and health care workers, who can trust them? I didn't trust them before, my government didn't trust them before, I am certainly not going to start trusting them now. It is just another kick in the face. The nurses and health care workers in this province are so used it to that, the old boxing term, what is it, punch-drunk, well, they are all punch-drunk. They are used to getting beat around. It is bad enough getting beat around, but this government just kicks them in the face.

So then, we continue, the government goes and sits at the table and brings the same exact offer that has been rejected. Out of pure and utter arrogance and disrespect for all Nova Scotians, they bring the same bloody agreement to the table, and yet the Premier and the Minister of Health say we want an agreement at the table. What a farce, what a cruel joke. So then we go on, the last time they sat at the table was last Thursday, I believe, and they haven't been there since. It is 7:41 a.m., an hour and 41 minutes into a legal strike. They haven't been at the table since last Thursday, and today is Wednesday. Six days they have not been at the table, yet they want an agreement reached at the table.

It is funny, but it is so sad at the same time. Yet, again, it goes to my underlying theory that Tories believe Nova Scotians are stupid and that they are going to fall for this and that they are going to believe this. You really have to wonder who is the one who lacks intelligence, thinking Nova Scotians will be fooled by this and that they will believe this ruse. The Minister of Health, I think, knows today that the gig is up, nobody is buying it.

Talk about wanting a negotiated agreement, no one is at the table. There is a strike going on and no one has a plan; no one has an idea of what is happening.

[Page 6209]

AN HON. MEMBER: What is that theory on John Hamm you have? Will he be here in a year or so?

MR. SAMSON: Let me get to that, the future of the Premier, or where I believe his future lies.

So then, Mr. Speaker, we sit here, and last night, if I am not mistaken, again the government gets backed into a corner because the union pulls one off on them again. The nurses and health care workers pull on off on him. Joan Jessome comes here and says, by the way, not only are the health care workers walking out at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow morning, the nursing unit of the NSGEU has indicated to me that they also will be walking out and not crossing the picket line.

Ah, the Minister of Health said. He held his head, my God, my God, health and safety, the poor Nova Scotians. And then in a perfect move she says but, pull Bill No. 68 now and there will be no strike; the strike is off and we go back to the table. Pull Bill No. 68 and the strike is off. What better escape for the government and for the Minister of Health than to say look, if you are willing to call off the strike, I have already said that that is my main priority - to make sure that there is no strike - if you say you will call off the strike, then let's talk. What can we do? We will pull Bill No. 68 immediately. Yet, he goes back and talks to the Premier and says, what do you think, Premier? The Premier said, are you kidding, I am John Hamm. I said Bill No. 68 is going through, I said the paramedics bill was going through, I said the Barrington bill was going through and, by God, Bill No. 68 is going to go through.

I don't care what offers the union makes. I don't care what suggestions the Opposition makes, Bill No. 68 is going through and that is it. Yet, the Tories would have us believe that this is a Premier who drinks milk, a good country doctor . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Friendly.

MR. SAMSON: Friendly, reasonable, and fair. I think you would have a hard time finding any Nova Scotians who would be able to give you at least two of those adjectives that I have just listed. I remember saying in this House - I gave the two descriptions of the Hamm we were told was our Premier and the one we were seeing - will the real John Hamm please stand up? I say it again, which one is it? It is not the good country doctor who drinks milk who would pass Bill No. 68. So who is it, who is the real person?

AN HON. MEMBER: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hamm.

[Page 6210]

[7:45 a.m.]

So now we see ourselves, it is Wednesday, June 27th, 7:45 a.m., an hour and 45 minutes into a strike. I still have about, I would say, 15 minutes, Mr. Speaker, in my speech. There are up to a dozen other speakers to speak today. You may have a reconsideration of the ruling made last night, even allowing this to continue on Opposition Day, yet, what is the government's plan? Just sit and wait. The backbenchers, what is your role? You are seat fillers.

I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, a lot of the government members are getting tired of listening to me. I think one of the frustrations that nurses who have come here express is a lack of respect shown by the government. As you know, Committee of the Whole House on Bills isn't part of the official copy of Hansard, but one can get transcripts. I thought this was most appropriate to describe how the government has listened to the Opposition in debate, voting down all our amendments at the Law Amendments Committee.

I just want to read this, Mr. Speaker. It a quote from my colleague, the honourable member for Glace Bay. It says, "Mr. Speaker, it is okay for members across the way to bunk down in their chairs, as they have been doing throughout debate and at any given time yesterday morning, I counted eight government members asleep in their chairs . . ." It says there is an interruption, probably government members who were a little upset at that. "I was right here, Mr. Justice Minister, I was right here watching eight government members asleep and earlier tonight . . ." and there are more interruptions. Then here, Mr. Speaker, it really shows to you - this is the Deputy Speaker, I have to point out, if I am not mistaken, it is the Deputy Speaker - the government's respect for the House and the Deputy Speaker says, "Order, please, honourable member, there is nothing in the Rules and Forms of Procedure that indicates that members . . .", in this case it would be government members, " . . . have to be awake or even conscious."

Imagine, nurses sitting here 24 hours a day to try to hear the debate and the Deputy Speaker says, there is nothing in the Rules and Forms of Procedure that indicates that members have to be awake or even conscious. To read a bit further, my colleague, the member for Glace Bay, said, "Well, in this case, Mr. Speaker, they were neither. They were neither awake nor conscious because if you were conscious, you would be thinking and they haven't been thinking at all." I think many Nova Scotians would agree with the comments from my colleague, the honourable member for Glace Bay, on Bill No. 68. Where is the thinking? Where is the logic? Where is the compassion? Where is the integrity? Where are the principles? Where are they that led to Bill No. 68? I think all Nova Scotians are asking that same question.

As I said before, it saddens me how I am reminded, I believe it was a Thursday evening . . .

[Page 6211]

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, through the proceedings in this very important debate, four times different speakers from the NDP were speaking, and from our side, in the last couple of days, we looked over and there was not a Liberal in their seat. Nobody was there. There was nobody on the Liberal side during the debate and he has the audacity to say that we are here working 18, 20 or 21 hours a day . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor. You have approximately 11 minutes.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, what you are seeing is the pure frustration of the member for Colchester North and I hope the nurses and health care workers here will judge you, honourable member, on your performance in this House. They will judge you on what you have done on Bill No. 68 and what you have said on Bill No. 68. I and my colleagues have stood in our place five or six hours each to speak on Bill No. 68. How many times did the member for Colchester North speak on behalf of his constituents? He can bark over whatever he wants at this point in time.

That's pure frustration, Mr. Speaker, and I understand that frustration because if I was a seat filler in this House, I would be frustrated also that the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance and the Premier feel that I am nothing but a seat filler and that is my role, to sit here 24 hours a day, to fill a seat, to be counted as a body. The Deputy Speaker says we don't care as long as it is a body, whether it is awake or conscious doesn't really matter, as long as it is a body. I can't judge whether the member for Colchester North in all his time here was awake or conscious or, you know, coherent or not. I can't judge on that.

MR. DAVID WILSON: How many hours did he speak on debate?

MR. SAMSON: And the question is, as my colleague, the member for Glace Bay says, at the end of the day how many hours did he speak in debate and, once again, as a former Minister of the Environment, I have to say that I do not fear having any environmental damage from the trees having to be cut down to print the speeches that he gave on Bill No. 68. Our forests are very safe in that regard.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many hours did you speak?

MR. SAMSON: This is hour six for myself. Many of the NDP caucus believe, the member for Hants East will soon be speaking, he will be going on his fifth or sixth hour. We have stood here and the government has tried to break us, 24 hours a day continually. Opposition Day, our one day, Mr. Speaker, and in your time here and in my time here, Opposition Day has always been respected. There was no debate on Opposition Day during the paramedics strike. There was no debate on Opposition Day on Bill No. 20. There was no

[Page 6212]

debate on Opposition Day on, I believe it was what, Bill No. 58 or Bill No. 52, the Barrington bill.

Yet, once again, last night the Deputy Speaker, the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, set a most dangerous precedent here in this House, a precedent that I will have to be held accountable for, that you will have to be held accountable for, a precedent which infringes upon the rights of the members of this House. Again, it is my sincere hope that you will review that decision and if we are going to send to the Committee on Assembly Matters the issue of whether House Rules should apply to committees and what the rules should be, I would certainly hope that that decision be sent back to the Committee on Assembly Matters and hopefully reversed and that that rule be changed so that Opposition Days be protected because, once again, maybe the government members will say, well, how self-serving for him now to say that. But, once again, some of them one day will be sitting on this side.

If any of you think you're going to spend the rest of your career in government, once again, you would be a fool to think that. Ask the Government House Leader. He has been back and forth. He knows. I, myself, I went from backbencher to minister over on that side, over on this side, and the complete cycle will be naturally back to that side, but then again we will wait and see.

AN HON. MEMBER: But you still came back. Some of them won't be coming back.

MR. SAMSON: But when they're over here and when one day they will be preparing for an Opposition Day and the government at the time will say, oh, by the way, remember June 26, 2001, at 11:59 p.m. when the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, the Deputy Speaker in your government, allowed you to call debate and not only to call debate on Opposition Day, but to set the hours starting at midnight. Do you remember when you guys did that? Unfortunately, the temptation will probably be to say we're going to do it back to you because it is convenient for us.

On July 27, 1999, or July 29, 1999, I believe, when John Hamm was elected, sworn in on August 16, 1999, on that day the Premier and the Minister of Health knew this contract was going to expire. Over 675 days have passed knowing this was going to happen. Yet this government brings in Bill No. 68 at the eleventh hour and hopes to have it passed, 675 days. Is that efficiency in government?

You passed Bill No. 20 saying we wanted efficiency in government. If the rest of the Civil Service is as efficient as this government, God help us all, 675 days, yet the members for Sackville-Beaver Bank and Dartmouth South and other members say, you know, Opposition, let it go through. Let us get this bill through. Stop holding it up, stand down, step out of the way, stand aside, I am not quite sure what term was used, a silly term, but anyway 675 days. That's inexcusable, Mr. Speaker, that's incompetence and incompetence should not be rewarded.

[Page 6213]

It should not be rewarded and it should not be allowed to go on and excused here in this province because this government did it for the paramedics. It is doing it here for the nurses and I would submit to you that whatever other bargaining group is coming, this same thing will be done, 675 days, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. The course didn't seem to be that clear after all, that we're now, as we sit, speaking here, as the backbenchers sit here, many of them from metro, your hospital workers, your health care workers and your nurses are walking picket lines, and what are you doing? What is your solution?

The solution is to pass the bill and order them back to work and everything will be okay after that. What possible problems could there be after we take away their right to strike? My God, do you have any idea what you've done to the health care system of this province? You have completely ruined the system that has been built over hundreds of years of trust, caring, compassion, of dedication. In less than two years you will have managed to ruin that system and to create chaos in that system, something for which we will all suffer for years to come and yet the backbenchers, you can see it in their faces - I can't wait for that vote on Bill No. 68 to go home and everything will be okay. It won't be okay. One could only wish it would be that easy. It is not that easy. You have poisoned the workforce to the extent that they are not going to back down.

I want to see the Minister of Justice, himself, handing out the summons to each of the nurses on the picket lines and I hope if he is going to pass such draconian fines and unreasonable fines that at least he will have the gumption to go, himself, on those picket lines and say here's your summons; $2,000 for your first day - or was it $2,500 your first day and $2,500 each and every day after? I hope at least he will have the face to do that. He was brave enough at the Law Amendments Committee to shut down and to trample the rights of members and to shove that bill through the Law Amendments Committee and not even accept any changes.

New Brunswick fines them $100 a day. Potentially, it is $2,000 in this province, but I am sure he won't go out and hand the summons himself. He will sit back and say that is the police's responsibility, not mine. He will hide in his office, or he will hide in this House or hide back in his riding. I don't know how much time he will spend in his riding, but if he was really committed to what he is saying, if the backbenchers here who have been sitting, whose backs are sore and whose bums are sore and whose legs are sore, the least you could do is ask him, listen, if you want this bill through, if you want to fine them, at least you go and give them the fines yourself.

You guys aren't going to ask that. You have let these guys get away with everything. You have allowed yourselves to become seat fillers in this province, seat fillers, and that's unfortunate. It really is, because when you look at the size of the backbench there, what a powerful force they could be to enact change and to make sure that they are doing everything they can to represent their constituents. At the end, they can't make Cabinet decisions but, by God, when you've got a backbench with over 20 members, you can certainly put an awful

[Page 6214]

lot of pressure on them. That is if you're allowed to. I think the message is quite clear that you're not allowed to.

Mr. Speaker, my time is winding down. I have to say it is a shame that I even had to stand here and speak again on Bill No. 68, but I know, unlike the member for Colchester North and many of the backbenchers, I can go back to Richmond County and hold my head up high and tell the people of Richmond that I spoke six hours and I did what I could to protect your rights, to protect the interest of nurses and health care workers and to protect the rights of every individual Nova Scotian. I am proud I did it, I would do it again and I will continue to do it, and shame on all the government backbenchers who have to go home with their heads bowed down, that they did absolutely nothing to stop Bill No. 68 and may they all be held personally responsible for anything that happens as a result of this . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

Before I recognize the next speaker, the honourable member for Richmond had asked that I review a decision made by the Deputy Speaker last night. As the member well knows, and I have had discussion with the member myself, a lot of times the Speaker and Deputy Speakers are called upon to make decisions and interpretations of the Rules of this House that many times are contrary from one page to the next, from one authority to the next. To say that it is not easy, is certainly an understatement as far as I am concerned. I did have an opportunity last evening - before the Deputy Speaker made his decision - to look at the rules. Again, it is not whether members of this House agree with the rules or don't agree with them, it is what we are faced with and have to make our decisions based on that.

[8:00 a.m.]

I certainly believe that based on Rule 5C which has commonly become known in this House as the "Hammer", that whether we like it or not, whether members of the House agree or not, the Government House Leader does have the authority to come to this House and, upon a majority vote, decide the hours of the starting, the finishing and the number of hours in any day with no exclusion. Particularly, whether it is Opposition Day or not because there is no exclusion, for example, of Wednesday.

So, the question asked, if I do support the Deputy Speaker's decision with regard to that issue last night, the answer is, yes, I do. Obviously, there are members on the Committee on Assembly Matters from each caucus and if members disagree with that particular rule - or any rule in this House - there is certainly an opportunity and I am sure there will be lots of opportunities in the future to bring that before that committee to have it reviewed and possibly back before this House to have that or any rule, reviewed.

[Page 6215]

In response to the member's request of whether or not the Speaker agrees with the Deputy Speaker's rule, again, my answer is yes.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Again, I go back to the point I was making. One of the points raised last night is when one looks at the face of a rule, one has to look at the context in which it was made, what the intent was at that time and how that rule has been applied. I think what was clearly demonstrated last night that the intent of the rule at the time was to allow government to call for extended hours on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The practices of the House have been that never before was it allowed on Wednesday. Wednesday was always Opposition Day - a cherished tradition in this House - and it would be from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

When we apply rules and in the application of rules, one always has to look at the context. What was the frame of mind? What was the intent of those rules? The point I raise with you is that you and I have had discussions on this and there have been different times where I, and possibly other members of the Opposition, under Bill No. 68, have stretched some rules a bit in order to try to show this government that if they were going to bend rules, we could bend rules also. I think both you and I came to the conclusion that this could not continue and it was setting a dangerous precedent.

We saw it with the reading of petitions, we have heard it with the reading of resolutions on behalf of other members, in other languages. My fear - and I guess the point I bring to you again - is if that is going to be allowed to be a precedent and Rule 5C is going to be allowed to be used regardless of what the intent was when it was made, naturally that is going to cause, I would submit to you, the Opposition members and other members of the House to try to find ways to twist the rules; to not look at what their intent was, but to look at their literal meaning today in order to use it to possibly even abuse the privileges of this House or to extend it.

I guess the point that I was making was I think you have recognized and you acknowledge, it is a dangerous precedent. It is something we need to get control over and I am sure even you would agree the idea that from here on forward, that the Government House Leader can allow Opposition Day to sit from 12:01 a.m. to 4:01 a.m. is a tremendously dangerous precedent. Basically, with the ruling last night, that is left now as a precedent in this House. I don't think any of the members here would agree that is reasonable or that should happen.

I don't know what the solution is, but we have raised concerns about the rules not being followed, and my hope is that this is not setting a precedent where each caucus is going to go and say, how can we screw the Rules of this House and use it to our advantage? That is not what our democracy was based on. That is not what our rules are based on. I am sure, in all honesty, that is not what the Speaker wants to see happen in this House.

[Page 6216]

I am not sure what the solution is, but what happened last night is a tremendously dangerous precedent and we are going down a dangerous road. I think all members need to find some way to sit down and make sure that doesn't continue, or, God help us all, what is going to happen with the Rules of this House. I respect the Speaker's decision; I may not agree with it, I do respect it.

But again, I would hope that the Speaker would have a chance to look at some of the comments raised during debate, especially what was read by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage about what the intent of that rule was at the time that it was actually brought before this House and to see what his intention was and how it was applied and to see whether we should really be applying it to Wednesdays or whether we should be protecting Opposition Day as a day for the Opposition Parties to bring forward the people's business. I submit that to you for your consideration, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: As you are well aware, of course, it is another early morning - or is it a late night? - as we go on with the people's business in this historic Chamber. I heard the weather report first thing this morning. It says it is going to be hot in Halifax today and I don't think it is going to be hot just in terms of the weather. I think it is going to be hot politically. That is an understatement. I want you to know that this morning my day began at 4:30 a.m. I had a late night too because, as you are aware, I am in the middle of - and rather nervously, I want you to know - preparing my graduation address to the high school in the community that I represent. That is a task that I don't take lightly. As you are aware and people in the gallery might know, I don't speak from a prepared text, which means that I have to say something meaningful, use my full complement of historical analogies, Mr. Minister of Justice. It was a challenge that I worked on late last night.

When 4:15 a.m. came and I pulled into the Tim Hortons drive-through, I was surrounded by a bunch of graduates in tuxedos. This is prom season and my first reaction is, I had better get out of this truck and make sure that these young men - and women, but, predominately young men - were in the right frame of mind to be able to get in their vehicles and drive away. And they were. They were on their way to their graduation breakfast.

But, I want to take a message to you and to the House from them. They have been following some of this - very aware young people - and they told me to come in here today and give them - them, I think, is referring to you folks over there - they wanted me to give you folks a message and what they said was, give them - and I can't spell it out because it is offensive. It begins with "s" and ends with "t" and it rhymes with the word hit, but I would rather not use that because I think we have gone too far with some of the acrimony. We have gone too far with some of the personal attacks.

[Page 6217]

What is under attack here is certain basic rights in the province. The ruling of last evening or early this morning and the arguments of parliamentary procedure - I will be quite candid with you, Mr. Speaker - are quite beyond me.

I can point to the members of the Third Party and they are welcome to stand and ask me a question about this. I am looking forward to a question on this, but, so conveniently Richie Mann has been . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour on a point of order?

HON. DAVID MORSE: The honourable member brings up an excellent point and I think he should ask the members of the Third Party whether, after listening to our debate from some hours ago, whether they now agree with Bill No. 68. If they still disagree, then they should speak up.

MR. SPEAKER: That is certainly not a point of order. I am not sure what it is, but the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: The Minister of Environment and Labour has a good point though. It is a very good point because so conveniently, the revisionists seem to take place and the Deputy Speaker made a ruling. Let's move on from that. I have points to bring up and I want to tell you what I am not going to do, for a change. I am not going to quote extensively from letters to the editor. I think members opposite have heard enough about my letters to the editor. I am not going to read e-mails and quote constituents and ex-students, although I have a very important one that I will bring to your attention. I am not going to go on at great length about a reading list for the Minister of Justice, but I am going to bring a couple of pieces of literature that I am going to use in my graduation address to the Minister of Justice's attention.

More importantly, I am going to - in the time that I am allotted again in this House - bring forward some of the concerns that I heard this morning. After the stop at Tim Hortons and the meeting with the young men in their tuxedos and after I deliver the message - which I just mentioned to you - I did visit one of the picket lines down at the - I want to call it the - old VG site, through the parking lot. I stopped because there was a person there I recognized, and she is Linda Millward, a constituent of the member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

Linda asked me what time I was speaking this morning and I said I wasn't sure at this time, but it probably would be early. Linda is angry to say the least. She is angry and she wants it clearly put again that what she is angry about is the infringement on her rights. Take it to them again, Bill, she said. It is not just about dollars. It is not just about dollars and cents, it is about common sense and how offensive particular clauses are in the bill.

[Page 6218]

You have heard me speak on that before, but what I sensed this morning on the picket line was some anger. It is unfortunate that it has come to that extreme. The opportunity has been there through the process that I have been following, whether at the Law Amendments Committee or through other things that I have heard and seen in this House, there have been opportunities to avoid this labour interruption. It hasn't happened and I think both sides are at fault for that, whether we're cranking it up from this side with some of the theatrics - and as you know, Mr. Speaker, from your time on this side of the House, that's part of our duty and part of our obligation. It is part of where we have to come forward as the Opposition members - I think that part of the stubbornness and the intrasigence that comes from that side of the House has also added very seriously to this concern.

Members opposite, and some of them I want to compliment, have stood in their place and had their say and justified in various tones how, I think perhaps a rehearsal of some of the things that they're going to say to their constituents this summer, but they have done that and they feel they have done it right. I disagree. I disagree and in the good exchange that we have in the debates that we have on ideas in this House, that's after all what people expect. When they come into this gallery, they expect to hear idea differences. They don't expect us to get into personal assaults. They don't expect us to get so over the top that we make personal comments that are truly hurtful, because that's not what we're about in this Chamber. We're about having idea differences.

Mr. Speaker, you sat in that Chair and had to rule some members - or I guess the Deputy Speaker perhaps in this case too - had to rule some people out of order and literally rein them in because of some of their over-the-top comments. In the past I know that I, on occasion, when I first joined the esteemed company of which I am lucky enough to be in the company of, there were times when I was of that nature too, but I very quickly learned that isn't how we achieve things in this House. We achieve things through differences of course, through the to-and-fro of arguments, the pros and cons of debate, but we don't have to stoop to personal attacks.

Members opposite should be aware of the fact that I have strong opinions on this bill. I have strong opinions on a lot of the topics which I feel deeply about, based upon where I am from, based upon the values that were brought to me by my card-carrying union father, based upon the fact that at one time, I recall as a young fellow, when they went out on strike in Dorchester and the RCMP were brought in to maintain maximum security at that penitentiary, that was not a decision come upon easily by my father, it was not a decision come upon easily by me, as his son, when I realized that it was going to be a tense, stressful situation, but it is important that members opposite know those are some of the roots that I come from, because I feel that there are certain basic rights that belong to the union movement in this country and in this province.

[Page 6219]

I have mentioned before, and I want to begin by this, and this is not a revisionism, but I have to get it out of the way because I feel obliged to continue my education of the good Minister of Justice, and you know there was a comment that I made here, and I can't remember what day I made it, what hour I made it, and I unfortunately forget the name of the history teacher who taught the Minister of Justice in Lunenburg and I had to apologize for my comment because I said that he hadn't really received a good high school history course. The Minister of Justice took me up on that and corrected me on it. I apologize for that at this time, but I wonder if that good minister - and I know I am not allowed a prop, but I just want to bring this to his attention, one of the most influential books and something that I will be quoting from in my graduation address to Sir John A. Macdonald's graduates, A Prophet in Politics by Kenneth McNaught, a biography of J.S. Woodsworth.

[8:15 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that when I first went to Mount Allison University and, as you are well aware, probably I got out of high school I guess on a whim and a wish and the fact that maybe they might have needed a football player somewhere, and when I got to Mount Allison, my professor at the time, Peter Penner, said to me, I need a book review and it has to be on a prominent Canadian politician. Of course, as a last minute university student in his first year, I had no idea who I should pick. So Professor Peter Penner picked for me this biography, A Prophet in Politics. There is a section in it, Page 92 to Page 96, on the role of labour and the role of unions in the history of Canada.

J.S. Woodsworth, I hope you remember, Mr. Speaker, was the solitary voice in 1939 who voted against Canada going to war. He was a pacifist, something, members opposite know I am not, something of which I would disagree with J.S. Woodsworth to this moment and, of course, J.S. was one of the founding fathers of the CCF and, of course, is still looked upon, as in the Tommy Douglas mould, as one of the true fathers of socialism in this country. He is a man who I have a lot of time and respect for. J.S. Woodsworth believed deeply in the importance of unions. In fact, members opposite should know, J.S. Woodsworth was fully prepared and on a number of occasions went to jail because of his belief in unionism in this country, was heavily involved in the Winnipeg general strike and dedicated to the fact that there are certain inalienable rights that belong to the working people of this country.

You know there is probably no other Nova Scotian who feels deeper about unionism than J.B. McLachlan from Steele's Hill in Glace Bay. I know the member for Glace Bay will probably want to ask me a question about some detailed biography that David Frank has recently put together. I want the Minister of Justice to take this as one of his most recommended summer readings. David Frank has done a biography on the story of the legendary labour leader of Cape Breton coal miners, J.B. McLachlan.

[Page 6220]

I want to, if I may, Mr. Speaker, begin my comments by telling you that this is one of the influential Nova Scotians who is concerned, even with his passing in 1937 and that wasn't yesterday, with his passing in 1937, let's hear what J.B. McLachlan's ballad was all about. As Charlie MacKinnon wrote: Jim B. McLachlan, the leader of men; J.B. McLachlan, united them and then Held high the torch of freedom for all, And asked his fellow miners to never let it fall.

Now, my good friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, from New Waterford, feels deeply about unionism in this province and I feel obliged to bring to the members opposite the importance of unionism in this province because I have heard the member for Preston say that it is not true that Tories are anti-union, it is not true that Tories are anti-worker. During those comments - and it was you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I compliment you again during the Committee of the House - they were so outspoken at that time, but none seem to be outspoken at this time, the members of the Third Party harangued the member for Preston when he finally stood in his place and had his say. You brought the House to order so we could hear what he had to say and the apologetic tone that he made - I believe it was an afternoon - the member for Preston wanted to correct what I consider an impression of the Progressive Conservative Party in this province that they are anti-union but, you know, that particular reflection sticks with me.

That is why I feel obliged to bring these two pieces of literature to the Minister of Justice's attention. I think that the Minister of Justice, as a student of history, would benefit immeasurably from reading J.S. Woodsworth's biography but, more importantly, I think he would benefit immeasurable from reading the biography of J.B. McLachlan of Steele's Hill in Glace Bay, a man who went to jail, a man who was in his own day put down by many of his sort. So, Mr. Speaker, if I may, I want to quote from this quick passage from David Frank's biography of J.B. Excuse the reading, the light is not the greatest in here and with my one good eye operating at 8:20 a.m., I think that the Minister of Justice should get the tone of this biography by these comments.

"Out of the smoke and darkness of the meeting hall, he stepped into the street. It was still daylight. There was a salt breeze in the air and a clear sky. He looked thoughtfully up the road, where a train of coal cars was creaking across the level crossing. Sounds carried crisply in the cool air, and for a moment he thought he heard bagpipes sounding in the wind. The couplings jangled, the iron wheels pounded and crackled on the frosty rails, somewhere in the background there was a ringing bell. The sounds were almost musical in the air, and he shook his head in wonder, watching for signs of a band. The train gathered speed. The sounds drifted away. There was a ringing in his ears and the pressure of burning smoke in his chest.

[Page 6221]

Then he passed through the streets of Glace Bay, through the streets where soldiers had rolled barbed wire during the strikes and mounted police had dragged men out of their homes, past the scenes of street-corner speeches and marching parades, past the union offices and the company buildings. He walked on past the churches where priests had denounced him and the moviehouses where he answered them. He continued on past the dull stockpiles of coal, the black gold that was the currency of the industrial revolution and the cause of so much heartbreak and so many struggles . . ." J.B. MacLaughlin was taking his last walk home.

Mr. Speaker, I know that members opposite will say that was a long time ago. That wasn't that long a time ago. That was only in 1937, the same year that collective bargaining rights were allowed in this province. The same year that J.B. passed away is the same year that it was enshrined through this historic Chamber that collective bargaining rights and the rights of unions would forever be enshrined in the legislation of this province.

Now, that was 1937 and this is 2001. Time has flown by because Bill No. 68 is an infringement upon those rights. It is an infringement upon those rights because of members, like the member for Cape Breton Centre, who still feel deeply when it comes to after all giving this member an appropriate Christmas gift, and I don't know if you exchange gifts over there, but the member for Cape Breton Centre made it very clear to me, as a student of history, when he went out of his way to get me this biography by David Frank. I have read every word of it. I quote from it extensively in my graduation address and, more importantly, I hope the members opposite are aware that there are deep roots of unionism in this province, unionism that we feel strongly for, whether it is 2001, whether it is 1937, whether it is J.B. McLachlan, or Frank Corbett, or Bill Estabrooks. Unionism has a future in this province and Bill No. 68 is not going to be allowed to destroy that. It is not going to be allowed to destroy that because this Party will stand in its place and bring such matters to your attention and to the attention of the members opposite.

So here is my one letter to the editor, just one, one letter to the editor from this morning's paper, it is called Back Off Hamm. I will table it if necessary, Mr. Speaker, I want members opposite to know that it comes from Robert W. Lyons. Guess where Mr. Lyons is from? No, he is not from Timberlea-Prospect so the member for Halifax Bedford Basin can relax. This is not one of my ex-students. Listen to the beginning.

"As an 87-year-old member of the Retired Teachers' Association . . .", so Mr. Lyons is not one of my students, " . . . and a naval veteran, I want to register a firm protest against the unnecessary action (Bill 68) that Premier John Hamm is taking relative to the threat of a strike by health care providers.

[Page 6222]

Being at an age where I might have quick need of medical services, I have more fear of what he is doing than of any plans nurses might have to care for me. I can say that the possibility of missing a back rub is of much less concern to me than the backstab that Mr. Hamm is prepared to deliver to my generation.

Surely, he and all MLAs must be aware of the many lives which were lost in the 1940's when hundreds of Nova Scotia boys, followed by uniformed nurses in field hospitals, had to make a forceful visit to Germany to restore to its people the democratic freedoms which were taken from them by a Mr. Hitler. Back rubs vs. back-stabs? Back off Herr Hamm."

It is signed by Robert W. Lyons of Pictou County, Nova Scotia. He is 87 years of age and a veteran. Incidently, Mr. Speaker, what makes me bring this to your attention is that would be the same age of my father if he was alive. What would my father say, based upon his unionism, based upon his experience, based upon the fact that he went over those seas and I will tell you, I will assure you that my father, God rest his soul, would be in this gallery and he would be a difficult 87 year old man to control because I never had any control of him, even at his feeble age when he did pass, strong opinions, a lot to say and very few patient comments ever directed to his know-it-all son.

But 87 year old Robert Lyons, the veteran, the resident of Pictou, has brought it clearly into perspective again for Nova Scotians. But, Mr. Speaker, that is only my only letter to the editor, which I am going to use today, because I do know that, on occasion, I have, what shall we say - I can't believe it, but I have - bored members opposite by letters to the editor, by e-mails from my ex-students, who happen to be health care workers. I know that they are concerned about the fact that apparently everybody in Timberlea-Prospect looks like they are a health care worker. I have heard from a lot of them. I am going to bring a couple of their comments to your attention in a moment.

Before I move on there, and I said that there would be three books that I would bring to the Minister of Justice's attention. This last one is one that I think should be very consequential in any kind of decision making over there. It is called Union Democracy. Now is that a contradiction in terms? That is the obvious way that members opposite want it portrayed to their constituents, those big, bad unions. Union democracy, that is not a contradiction in terms. This book, written by Lipsid Trow and Coleman, What Makes Democracy Work in Labour Unions and Other Organizations? I recommend that book to members opposite. This is not a contradiction. Union democracy is something that works in this country and works in this province. It works because when people go to have their say at a union meeting, they have it.

[Page 6223]

Mr. Speaker, I am not saying that you have gone to a lot of union meetings, heaven forbid I would say that. My goodness, I don't know if I could ever say you have been to a union meeting. I have been to a few of them and I want to tell you, they are outspoken, direct, confrontational. There are strong opinions being expressed. There are people having their say and, at times, the union leadership sort of steps back and says, hold on here. I mean, I can recall in some of the union meetings that I have attended with the NSTU and, as you are well aware, Mr. Speaker, and I have said it publicly many times, in fact, during my teaching days as a classroom teacher, prior to me becoming an administrator, I seldom agreed with the NSTU because I felt they were too far removed from classroom decisions.

[8:30 a.m.]

However, I want you to know and I want it on the record, very clearly put, Mr. Speaker, none was prouder than this associate member of the NSTU - and I have associate membership now because of the current position that I am fortunate enough to hold - none was prouder than I when I heard Brian Forbes, the President of the NSTU and the Yarmouth Junior High history teacher, stand in his place and have his say on behalf of teachers across the province on how dangerous Bill No. 68 is. Unionism and democracy go hand in hand. It is, after all, under no pretense that I would say, I will always agree with Brian Forbes. I will have my say as an associate member of the NSTU. I will not always agree with my fellow union brothers and sisters, but I will have my say and, in turn, I will listen to them and that is what makes unionism strong in this province - workers have their say.

They get it off their chest. They express their opinions and then, when the decision is made - you have heard this song and I have heard members opposite say, you guys in the union - guys meaning girls, guys, that non-sexist term - should get some new tunes (Interruptions) Right, Solidarity Forever. Now heaven forbid that the honourable member for Hants East and I would have to duo on Solidarity Forever. But I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that Farewell to Nova Scotia would be one that I would sing on a venture and I would have the good member for Shelburne, if he had his guitar tuned up, I would sing it because there is a tune that has become a union call in this province for these health care workers as they sing Farewell to Nova Scotia. They have special words to it. I don't know, Mr. Speaker, if you have heard it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect wish that the Speaker ask for unanimous consent so he could sing the song?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, no, I am sorry. I don't think that props are allowed. I am not asking for that. The honourable member for Shelburne, on a future day - now there is a fundraiser. A trio, you, me and the honourable member for Shelburne singing Farewell to Nova Scotia. That could be quite an event. Perhaps we could do it some time in the fall and I know the exact place to do it - Springhill, when we go back to the roots of a community.

[Page 6224]

I know that we, as a group of MLAs, and members in the gallery should know that this is the sort of thing that we will co-operate with, that this will not stoop to the personal level when we go to help out the community of Springhill, as we plan to do this fall, coordinated by the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. After we have that, we are going to raise some money for the people in Springhill for their new rink. There would be the opportunity for the honourable member for Shelburne to bring his guitar and then I will sing that union song, Farewell to Nova Scotia, with the words that have been given to me, not the Anne Murray words, not the words that, after all, we can sing together. You can do your version of Farewell to Nova Scotia, I am going to do the union version.

I know that in the coal mining town of Springhill, there will be some union members there as we raise the roof, hopefully, for a new rink in Springhill. But I want you to know and the Speaker for this House, the honourable member for Cumberland South, should be present because the union movement in this province doesn't need, necessarily, just new songs. It needs a new faith in a government that is not going to stamp on them and not going to put them down and not treat them with the lack of respect that we have seen over the last couple of weeks in this House. That is the message that Nova Scotians are so concerned and so angry about.

Health care workers have said it many times. It is just not a matter of dollars. There are some offensive clauses in Bill No. 68 which should have been amended and removed. There are some offensive ideas in Bill No. 68. Those ideas are, as I have said a number of times in this House, like you have that mosquito that is bothering you or a housefly that is bothering you, you don't hit with a hammer you hit it with a flyswatter.

The labour interruption that was going to take place and has taken place in this province, that has now been going on for 2 hours and 35 minutes in this province, while we were ordered back to this House or welcomed back to this House as provincial legislators, I fully expected back-to-work legislation, but I also fully expected, and I think members of the gallery expected, and I truly think maybe some backbenchers expected, we can't let them go out, so we will have binding arbitration. There is the issue. (Interruptions) Where is binding arbitration? Where is binding arbitration is the question that is asked all the time. Is this not part of the collective bargaining process in this country and in this province? Isn't it a logical step that we are supposed to have the legal right to?

But binding arbitration has not been part of this particular, offensive bill. That is the thing that has gotten those workers so angry. I have to be careful how I say this, you can tick off construction workers, and we have seen them - I didn't, but I have seen it on television - jump over, in the past, in an unfortunate demonstration in this House; you can tick off teachers; you can tick of Nova Scotia Liquor Commission workers, but don't tick off the women, predominantly, in health care. Don't tick off nurses. (Applause) Actually, I am being - as members in the gallery know and as members of my caucus know - polite by using the word tick off, but that is all I am allowed, as parliamentary, in this House.

[Page 6225]

I want you to know that you have crossed the wrong group; you have crossed the wrong group, they are not going to forget this one, and they are going to take it to the ballot box the next time we slap those signs up and ask for it. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I want to review with you, if I may, 10 questions that I have been asked over the past number of hours and days and, it seems, eternities, 10 questions that I have been asked to bring to this House's attention. Some of them are by constituents of mine, some of them are from other people that I have heard from. The first one is, did this government ever plan to bargain in good faith? That is a question. I better start ticking them off here - I can't actually use that word ticking them off this time. Did this government ever plan to bargain in good faith?

The second part of the question is, so why did this government not agree to binding arbitration? Now, I could volunteer some answers to some of these questions, but I am not part - not yet - of the Cabinet decisions on that side of the House. I can't believe it, that the members of the Third Party haven't jumped up here to make their usual snap at me about, I'll never be in Cabinet, but anyway I don't see an interruption so I guess I will continue. Okay? No more objections?

There is the concern. Why did this government not agree to binding arbitration? I want members of the gallery and members at home who are listening to understand why. You can look at other provinces across this country. Binding arbitration, if you have essential services that do not have the right to strike, and that is a decision made by other provincial governments across this country, essential services as determined by a particular government also have the right of binding arbitration. How come that isn't included?

I want you to know the answer Nova Scotia, the answer is that an independent judge from New Brunswick, an independent judge from Manitoba, whoever would be in charge of this binding arbitration would find in favour of the health care workers, and would agree to the fact that they deserve to be paid more. Because this government is more concerned about the bottom line and their 10 per cent kickback in their third or fourth or whatever year it is in the blue book, they are more concerned about that 10 per cent tax break in the future year ahead, as opposed to giving what health care workers richly deserve, that is why there is no binding arbitration agreed to in this particular piece of legislation. I say shame on those members opposite for not constantly bringing that forward. The paramedic strike is a perfect example of it. Binding arbitration was how it was finally solved, and the lesson this government learned was binding arbitration, when the worker is in the right position, will find in favour of the worker. That is why they will not go to binding arbitration.

Here is a question that has been asked of me. Is this Government of Nova Scotia becoming the Government of Ontario? The next one after it is, compare and contrast Dr. Hamm and Premier Harris. Let's be clear, I have lived in Ontario, mind you I was a university student. I have been there and I have voted there. I actually don't know whether

[Page 6226]

I was allowed to vote there or not, but I voted there. I voted for a Tory, Lincoln Alexander. I lived in Hamilton, Ontario, another one of my university stops where my athletic career had moved me on, I want you to know.

But as I took that graduate degree at McMaster University, and I open-mindedly looked at who I was going to vote for and who I listened to through that campaign, Lincoln Alexander struck me as the person I could support, regardless of political stripe. I was 21 years of age. Politics? I knew my father's politics, I guess I knew my mother's, but they never really talked about it. I voted for Lincoln Alexander, and I am proud to say that I did. He has gone on to be a revered - I guess that would be the correct way to say it - public servant and an example for not just the people of Ontario but for the people of Canada.

The comparison ends there. I am very concerned, extremely concerned about the fact that I did not choose to live in Ontario, I chose to return to this province to become a schoolteacher in this province because this is where I wanted to make my home. No reflection on Hamilton, Ontario, but as far as I was concerned Tantallon, Nova Scotia, Timberlea, Nova Scotia, Prospect, Terence Bay, Nova Scotia, those are the places where I wanted to live and raise my family and have my career. There is a big difference between Mike Harris' Ontario and Bill Estabrooks' Nova Scotia.

There must continue to be that difference. This is a province of caring, considerate Nova Scotians, where we allow certain basic rights. I will tell you, if and when the time comes that that Mike Harris-type of legislation is brought into this province to beat up teachers, like Harris has done, I want the government to know that nurses have a passion and health workers have a passion for fairness when it comes to democracy, don't, whatever you say, whatever you think, forget that the teacher in me will be there to make sure that we are fairly treated in this province, because Mike Harris has offended teachers from one end of the province to the other. I can take that from first-hand knowledge, because currently, as you might be aware, I have a daughter living in Thunder Bay, working for CBC Radio, who is in touch quite often with her mother, at least, because whenever she calls her father he is trying to catch up on a few winks of sleep these days.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that this is not Ontario, this is Nova Scotia, and this is why this piece of legislation is so offensive to the people of this province. Here is another question - I think it is my sixth one, as I keep track of them here - why does all the power of the contracts have to be concentrated in the Cabinet? These people, these health care workers have looked carefully at the legislation. Why does the long arm of the Cabinet have to be involved in labour discussions? Why do contracts have to be actually proposed and decided by the Cabinet? Members opposite should know, that is included in this legislation. The Cabinet, the Bill No. 20-revised, all-powerful, inner Cabinet, they have the power. I think and I know, in fact, there are members of that backbench over there who are offended by that. They're offended by that because the Cabinet constantly turns and tells them what to do or

[Page 6227]

how to vote and why would that repressive clause be included? That is the analogy I have used before of hitting a mosquito or a fly with a hammer. Why go so far?

[8:45 a.m.]

Let's look at it carefully, Mr. Speaker. Has Bill No. 68 helped the collective bargaining process when it comes to these health workers? It has offended them; it has turned it up a notch; it has made it worse. People are angrier. They are more ticked off than ever, not just because of the stressful working conditions, not just because of the fact that they believe they should be paid more, but they are offended and they are angry because Bill No. 68 just goes too far. I know members of that caucus agree with that and they have not, in any circumstances, been allowed to have their say on those particular clauses.

Here is a question - and I have three more, according to my list, as I have been keeping track of them - What is the future of labour negotiations in Nova Scotia? Asking my opinion, and that does come from a constituent, I was asked by this gentleman and he brought it up to me in an open fashion. Darrell Lundrigan wants to know. Darrell Lundrigan, a resident of Brookside who appeared in front of the Law Amendments Committee with his daughters, incidently, a high school student at Sir John A. Macdonald, and Amanda Lundrigan, to her credit, as nervous as she was, made a few comments in front of the Law Amendments Committee about what she sees as her future as a potential health care worker in this province who no longer has the rights which she believed she was deservedly to have as a health care worker. What is the future of labour negotiations in this province?

Members opposite will say this is just one bill; this is Bill No. 68; it is only dealing with health care workers. We are not going to extend it to others. I want you to know, members opposite, Nova Scotians don't believe a word of that. They believe that you have gone from Bill No. 20, which was that offensive, omnibus bill of concentrating all the power in the hands of a few inner Cabinet members to Bill No. 68, and what bill is going to be next? - I have used the comparison before - we have gone from Bill No. 20 to Bill No. 68, to - give me a number - Bill No. 99 perhaps. We have gone from Baker to Muir to Hamm. That triple play is going to concern health care workers; it is going to concern teachers; and it is going to concern Nova Scotia Liquor Commission workers. That concern is going to contaminate future negotiations in this province for many years in the future, Mr. Speaker. That's the concern.

What is the future of labour negotiations in this province? I want to answer Darrell Lundrigan; I want to be truthful with him. From my experience, I don't think it is a very bright future. It is going to be confrontational; it is going to be antagonistic; it is going to be bitter. It is going to be based upon suspicion and distrust, and that is not the Nova Scotian way. That is not the way of J.B. McLachlan or Frank Corbett, but it seems to be the way of this government.

[Page 6228]

Here's question nine: What about the comment that you made - when I was talking to ATV - that this is a divide-and-conquer mentality? I did say that. I was asked this contract negotiating that has been going on, that this government is dividing and conquering. They seem to have one set of rules for one union, one set of rules for one group and another set of rules for another group. Now members in the gallery should know that that is just smart when it comes to negotiating. However, it is in bad faith and that is the divide-and-conquer mentality that is going to unify health care workers, that is going to have nurses walking out in support of the workers already on strike. The NSNU, the NSGEU, CUPE, the auto workers, the future of Teachers Union negotiations, it is all at stake here. This is not just one particular union and this divide-and-conquer mentality is going to backfire on this government. It is going to backfire on this government during this labour interruption and future labour interruptions because never again will there be any trust. Never again will there be any trust.

The final question was asked by a student, a young woman that I will have the privilege of speaking to tomorrow night at Sir John A.'s graduation, a young woman, incidentally, who gave me this lapel pin. I can't take this prop off - it is not really a prop, it is the lapel pin for Sir John A. Macdonald High School - the flaming A. Danielle Purcell is going to St. F. X. And Danielle Purcell, the proud daughter of a hockey player who always makes me look so bad, Danielle Purcell is interested in being a nurse. So what do I say to Danielle? She is going to X incidentally, on a scholarship - outstanding high school soccer player, outstanding student, heavily involved in the community. Her question is - and they always begin it this way and it makes me feel old - her question was the other afternoon when I saw her for a moment standing on the steps at the BLT Rec Centre, sir, and you know, it is amazing, I have been in politics now for two terms and they still call me sir, regardless. Danielle says, sir, after I get my degree, should I stay? Or should I go?

Now, the teacher stands back and says to Danielle, I would rather not answer that one for you just now, young woman. Maybe I will try to give you an answer during my graduation address. A young person, eighteen years of age, graduating from high school, looking to go into health care, turns to her MLA who also happened to be her past teacher. Actually, I never really taught Danielle, I was the vice-principal at that school and one of her coaches. She is asking me for advice. You know, it is the people up there and the people behind me that I should direct Danielle to. What shall I say to Danielle on graduation?

Of course, I am not just speaking to her, I am speaking to 225 or 230 students, whatever number is fortunate enough to get through on Thursday night at that high school. But there is the sort of question that an outstanding young woman is thinking about. Should she stay in this province if she is going to be a health care worker when she is going to be treated with the disrespect that she has seen, when she has seen nurses on the front page of The Chronicle-Herald in tears? When you understand that Danielle Purcell, the outstanding young woman that she is, is considering this as a career, and she asks me, as her MLA, for advice - it is not going to be theatrics. It is not going to be an answer of come, stay, or enjoy

[Page 6229]

St. F. X. - I suppose I will try to fudge it and say, go play soccer, you will love Antigonish and I will see you at Christmas time. How would that be?

Because, I don't want to say to Danielle Purcell, you leave as soon as you get that degree. You take as much as you can and go to Texas, go to West Virginia, go to Maine. I want the Danielle Purcells to stay in Nova Scotia. I want her to live in Timberlea-Prospect. I want her, when she is able to vote for the first time, to vote NDP. I want her to be able to say that my MLA stood up for me as a future health care worker. Her parents, Danny and Nancy Purcell, on the Brookside Road, know that I will continue to speak up because of young people such as Danielle. The answer I am going to give her, I will take some advice from members in the gallery. I will take it from some other members of health care workers across this province as we continue to see these events unfold.

Those are my ten questions, Mr. Speaker. I know I have some more time remaining, thank goodness. I want to bring - and I said I would only take two. Don't forget I said I was going to have one letter to the editor; two e-mails, actually, one is not an e-mail, it is a message that was placed under my office door, so I should be clear; and three books to bring to the Minister of Justice's attention.

So, here is an e-mail from John Baker, in Halifax. Thank you for this e-mail, Mr. Baker.

This bill is an act of tyranny against the health care workers of Nova Scotia. For the past 12 plus years, the governments of Nova Scotia - and I see perhaps that a member of the Third Party could stand and ask me about this, governments, plural, of Nova Scotia - have taken away what has taken many years more to negotiate fairly for these health care workers. We have not even kept up with the cost of inflation. Every so-called raise we have had over the past decade was less than the cost of inflation, so we have been losing consistently. For the government to take away our democratic rights to negotiate is just another step closer to our country becoming a communist state.

Premier Hamm has made a colossal mistake and dug himself into a deep hole. He is now thinking only about saving face. I believe that he has done irreparable damage to Nova Scotia. If the rest of his Party goes along with Mr. Hamm and his puppet, Mr. Muir - and there is an insulting comment here. I am sorry, Mr. Baker, I am not going to read that. It is a little bit over the top even for me, I guess - then they will all just be as much to blame as the Premier himself. This is a real blow against freedom and democracy. Bill 68 has to go.

[Page 6230]

Another e-mail and another piece of evidence. But the question that I am always asked, and it wasn't one of my 10, is anybody listening to the fact that when it comes to common sense, there are parts of this bill that should have been withdrawn long ago?

Finally, I want to bring to the attention of the House the comments of nurse Carolyn Doucette, 75 Maplewood in Timberlea.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester North on a question.

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for letting me ask this question. I am just wondering if the honourable member opposite would entertain a question from the Liberal caucus over there?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Honourable member for Colchester North, of course I would take questions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect entertain a question from the Liberal caucus? Anyway, honourable member, I guess you understand the intent of the question. I am not sure that I do.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes and I know you are delivering an important message because even that last e-mail said the governments of Nova Scotia, but I don't see that previous government, I don't see that previous Minister of Finance who, of course, at one time had a balanced budget and at another time didn't have a balanced budget. I don't see that Minister of Finance pass, thank goodness for that. I don't see him standing asking a question of me and that concerns me greatly. I would like to have the past Minister of Education, the past King of P3 schools, stand and ask me a question. But, more importantly, I would love to have the past Minister of Labour, the friend of the worker.

Some of you members opposite weren't here when the friend of the worker, the Liberal MLA for Cape Breton West, when he used to defend the workers. He used to, if you know, threaten the member for Cape Breton Centre. He used to threaten him, I don't have to listen to union workers, he said. I listen to my staff. That is the friend of the worker. That is the friend of health care. There they are. None of them in their place is willing to stand and ask a question. I wish they would, but the past Minister of Environment and Labour and I know that the current Minister of Environment and Labour patiently deals with those questions that are asked. The past Minister of Finance patiently asked that Minister of Finance, and I don't know how you answer the questions with a straight face. The Minister of Finance, I don't know how you answer him with a straight face. But I thank the member for Colchester North - minister maybe someday in the future by that coaching - to have that brought to my attention.

[Page 6231]

I want to talk about nurse Carolyn Doucette and I know that Nurse Doucette has brought concerns to those members of the Third Party. She has brought them to my attention because, of course, she lives in my constituency. Carolyn Doucette's note is one of real consequence. Canadian law and government is based on three premises: equality, justice and fairness. Bill 68 opposes all three, therefore, Bill 68 is unethical and immoral. It takes away the basic rights of individuals.

[9:00 a.m.]

I have come to appreciate the straightforward, direct approach of health care workers such as Carolyn Doucette. Yes, I have known Carolyn and her husband Ray for a number of years as involved volunteers in the community that I am fortunate enough to represent. But Carolyn Doucette's note says it all. It is handwritten, Mr. Speaker. It is based upon emotion. It is based upon gut feeling. It is based upon frustration. That is what is happening today. That is what is happening on those picket lines. That is what is happening to health care workers. That is what is going to happen when Nova Scotians finally have their say on the verdict of Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, I want to return to the challenge that I have ahead of me in the remaining time that I have left to speak on this bill. Perhaps I could accept the advice of some members opposite. I certainly have been looking for advice from members of the Third Party. What do I say in that graduation address? It really does perplex me, Mr. Speaker. It sticks vividly in my mind, I used to run a lot of school graduations and the rule at school graduation is you invite the politicians and you put them on the stage but you never let them near a podium, you never let them near a microphone and Heaven forbid, never ask them to say anything. You have to invite them - and I am talking us, them. I hope that you will enjoy the graduation that you will attend in your beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. I know you have a couple of high schools, probably, to attend, but, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, you are going to sit there.

I don't want to question the judgment that you just gave me. You told me I had two minutes left.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, honourable member. According to the Speaker's note here, you commenced at 8:05 a.m.?

MR. ESTABROOKS: I was watching the time carefully and I won't question you on that. I know there was an exchange between the member for Richmond and so on, so I apologize for being distracted with that.

MR. SPEAKER: The previous Speaker had it . . .

[Page 6232]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, you give me the advice then. You are put in that position at your high school, or members opposite are put in that position at the high school graduations that you are going to attend. Enjoy the moment, but what are you going to say to these young people? What are you going to say to them? You are put on the spot. The expectations of a Danielle Purcell, who is expecting me to give her, as she heads off to St. F.X. - advice about the future.

I have been through a very negative process within the last couple of days and weeks in this House. I am concerned about the fact that my graduation address will quote J. S. Woodsworth. I am expected to quote J. S. Woodsworth. These students know, Heaven forbid I would quote Mackenzie King. They know that J. B. McLachlan is a book that I have treasured because I have been in the high school and I have talked about the Christmas gift I received from the member for Cape Breton Centre.

It is a challenge. It is a challenge that I don't take lightly. I want to be positive. I want to be uplifting. I don't want to be negative. I want to point out to these young people that the health care workers and the health care system in this province will prosper, but it will only prosper with full collective bargaining rights and the right to strike. A democratic right which we must always have in this province. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, definitely a hard act to follow. I want to say that when I spoke yesterday, somewhere about 26 hours ago, I thought that would be my last opportunity to speak on this bill. Then as events turned so that the Opposition was able to garner more time to debate this piece of legislation, the sand kept shifting even into the evening and I got a call around, I think, 10:00 p.m. to let me know that the Tories had found a way to remove the Opposition's ability to set the hours for Opposition Day, and I have to say in three years of being in this House, certainly to me that is unprecedented. Usually on Tuesday at the end of the day, the Government House Leader would rise and he would ask the Opposition House Leaders, either the Official Opposition or the Liberal Party, and it would be the Opposition House Leader who would set the hours and the agenda for Opposition Day and in three years that is what has happened and that has been my experience.

So certainly to find that there is a loophole or a mechanism that allows for the Government House Leader to set the hours of the day, just totally blind-sighted me. You would think that if that was possible, it was something that we would see often in a three year period and yet I had never seen it, but be that as it may, it only indicates to me the resolve that the government has in trying to remove the democratic process as much as possible from the hands of Nova Scotians. I think the government, although it will run on the notion that it has a mandate from the people and because it has the greater number of seats that it has the power in the House, but I think that the government should realize that 60 per cent of Nova

[Page 6233]

Scotians didn't vote Tory. I think they should bear in mind that come the next election, I think there is going to be a greater number of Nova Scotians who don't vote Tory. I would say that there are members on the government side who certainly have more political experience than I do, but I would say give your head a shake, let common sense prevail, and back away from this agenda because Nova Scotians aren't going to forget.

I want the members on the government side to recognize that if they have tallied the number of votes they're going to lose from health care workers, they better consider their spouse, their families and all the others in Nova Scotia who may not be related to health care workers, but totally despise the government for the action that it has taken against the rights of workers in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I am not sure what I can say. It is obvious at this point in time and by the latest maneuver by the government that they have no intention of listening to the Opposition. They have no intention of listening to Nova Scotians. It has been made clear over the past number of days that Nova Scotians are not in favour of this action that the government is taking, that Nova Scotians resoundingly have said that they support the health care workers in this province and they believe that at least they should have the right to binding arbitration if nothing else. I would say that I wish I could come up with that phrase or that statement that would actually bring a bout of reality to the government side in holding them up from going down this perilous road, but you have chosen this and nobody was twisting your arm unless it was the Premier.

I have stated in this House before a conversation that I had at one point with my father. I forget what the news item was on the day, but we were driving along and on the radio there was a news item about somebody being victimized in another country. I said to my father that I was amazed at what people will do to other people, and he said yes, just because they can, and that's what is happening in this province. You are bringing in a piece of legislation that is going to impact the lives of thousands of health care workers, not to mention thousands upon thousands of Nova Scotians, and you're doing it because you can, not because it is the right thing to do.

I would say that if the government is promoting the idea that they're doing this for the health and safety of Nova Scotians and to protect that health and safety, then that's a message that's not selling very well among Nova Scotians, because I think Nova Scotians have a high regard for the health care workers in this province. I think they have a high regard for the contingency plan that has been offered by the NSGEU and I think that over the past months when during Question Period in this House the Opposition raised concerns about beds that had been closed, surgeries that have been cancelled, they had nothing to do with an impending strike, they had to do with the everyday operations of the health care system in this province and the place that it is in, or the position that it is in, based on the policy of this government, which is a continuation of the previous Liberal policy.

[Page 6234]

I want to say that it is not Premier Hamm who has drawn the line in the sand to health care workers, that was done by John Savage but, Mr. Speaker, Premier Hamm didn't erase that line. He etched it deeper, and when health care workers wouldn't step across that line he pushed the line toward them. When their backs were up against the wall they had no direction to step. The only direction they could move was across the line, and then the government blamed health care workers. Well, I want you to be aware you can only push people so far. Health care workers in this province, Nova Scotians everywhere in this province, expect their Opposition to stand up and speak for them and in this case, not only has that occurred, but Nova Scotians all across this province have stepped to the plate and spoke on their own, and they have defended health care workers, and rightly they should.

I want to read - and I will table this - Mr. Speaker, from the alternate budget from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and they took a look at the government's budget and I would say that part of the spin in this debate has been to try to convince Nova Scotians that there is a need not to pay these health care workers, that the province can't afford it. I am saying right here and now that this is a song that I am getting a little tired of. When you go out and about, I do run into people who are concerned because they have picked up on this spin that we don't have the money.

Well, I would say that that is not correct. I would say that we do have the money and I would say that the evidence is there and it is a question, first of all, that the money exists and, second of all, the priorities that government has for its money and, thirdly, whether or not putting health care workers out on a limb to make their job, every day, more demoralizing than it is, to put Nova Scotians at further risk in health care because of those procedures that have already been cancelled prior to any strike. If you don't start to put more money into health care in this province and pay people what they're worth, then we're not going to have the people in the system and that is part of the problem now. When they say that 79 nurses graduated from Dal Nursing School and 6 stayed, there should be a message there and that is purely the intention of this Premier and this government and it doesn't live up to the commitment made in the blue book.

[9:15 a.m.]

The Premier is quite selective on his commitments. He says that his commitment was a fiscal agenda. Well, I believe that the Premier is concerned about the dollars, the tax dollars of the province, and what he does with taxpayers' dollars. I think taxpayers would expect any Premier to have a high regard for that. We spend a lot of money, somewhere in the range of $70 million or more, servicing our debt. We could do a lot with health care and education, et cetera, if we had those dollars. I agree, by all means.

Also, along with being prudent, and actually if the Premier would just be prudent I would be satisfied, he doesn't have to be draconian, use those dollars he has wisely and deliver the services that Nova Scotians expect to get. I think Nova Scotians have

[Page 6235]

overwhelmingly indicated they would rather see the money go into the health care system than to get a tax rebate. Personally, I know I would. If the Premier or this government wants to give me a tax break, it better be a pile of money that I can see, before I am going to be interested in taking it. I expect that is not going to be the case. I expect the tax break that I am going to get is going to be so minuscule it is not going to have any dramatic effect on my immediate life.

I would say, by leaving those dollars in the system that Nova Scotians might be able to reap the benefit of a much better, secured health care system. I think my colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, yesterday, indicated that that tax break to Nova Scotians is going to cost in the range of $130 million, and that is $130 million in one year. In order to balance the books and give a $130 million tax break, you have to have a $130 million surplus. In order to have a $130 million surplus and still balance the books and actually still be predicting a surplus on top of that, it is much greater than $130 million.

To meet the demands of the nurses, we are talking $150 million over three years, that is $50 million a year. The government is talking about $130 million in one year, and yet they will say we can't afford to pay health care workers. What the government is saying is we can't afford to risk our agenda of giving a tax break and getting re-elected. My worry in this - this is the first mandate of this government, and hopefully to God it will be the only mandate of this government - if this government is re-elected, what is coming in the second mandate? If you can do this during what is referred to as the honeymoon period of the government, what will you think Nova Scotians will be giving you in your next mandate?

My fear would be, first of all, not only the privatization of liquor stores, but privatization of health care. That is where I think this government is going. You set up a scenario, make Nova Scotians believe they can't afford health care, and then you can sell the argument, because you can't afford it, then we will privatize it and you will get better service. That may benefit friends of the Tories, it is not going to benefit health care workers, it is not going to benefit Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I want to read from Appendix 2 from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and then I will table that. I want this in the record so that members on the government side are aware and anybody listening is aware that somebody else has looked at this and that they think the financial situation of the province is not so dire that the government couldn't afford to spend on health care workers. I know members opposite will say, well, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is somewhat left-wing and, therefore, it is not credible coming from this member of the New Democratic Party. Be that as it may, I think the numbers they use are credible, they are in comparison with numbers the government has used, and I think they make a good case, if not everybody in the House will agree.

[Page 6236]

"Nova Scotians are being threatened with another round of budget cuts. Premier John Hamm has claimed, 'over the next two years, we will need to find another $260 million to get rid of that deficit altogether....It's going to be tough.' Not content with previous cuts, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce recently urged the premier to cut deeper and faster.

Is this necessary? In this brief, CCPA-NS shows that, rather than cutting budgets, Nova Scotia can now start providing much needed investments in services. Increased revenues due to economic growth and increased federal transfers will eliminate the deficit.

Revenue Increases for 2001-2002

Increased revenue in 2001-2002 from federal transfers and from provincial taxes can balance the province's books. The federal government projects equalization payments will increase $95 million over 2000-2001 levels to $1,375 million. Canada Health and Social Transfer will increase $63 million to $586 million, resulting in a total increase in transfers of $158 million.

Based on a consensus of the forecasts of the 5 major chartered banks, Informetrica has forecast that the Nova Scotia economy will grow by 2.4 % in real terms in 2001, resulting in a 4.4 % increase in GDP when inflation is taken into account." Some people have said that growth won't be that significant, and they address that further on. "If the provincial economy grows at this rate, revenue from income tax will increase by $109 million in 2001-2002. Other sources of revenue, such as sales tax, will also increase as the economy grows resulting in an additional $83 million in revenue.

Adding these increases in revenue together, one can expect Nova Scotia's revenues to increase by over $350 million in 2001-2002 alone, more than enough to eliminate the deficit.

How Big is the Deficit for 2000-2001?

The provincial government has been using a number of figures in preparation for its 2001 budget." Table 3, which is included here, ". . . presents the provincial government's numbers and the CCPA-NS estimates. The Budget Estimates (April 2000) show that the government estimated that the province would run a deficit of $268 million in 2000-2001. The province's most recent 'Year End Forecast Update'

[Page 6237]

(December 2000) shows an $8 million decrease in the deficit. The update estimates revenues in 2000-2001 to be $4,900 million, $105 million above the initial Budget estimates. The increase in estimated revenue was almost entirely offset by increases in net expenses totalling $97 million. The net result was a new estimated overall provincial deficit of $260 million, the figure the premier is now using as he prepares Nova Scotians for the 2001 budget.

Options for the 2001-2002 Budget

Estimates in the provincial government's 'Fiscal Plan' for 2001-2002 . . . exemplify the government's approach to budgeting - revenues are underestimated and budget cuts are prescribed to solve the resulting deficit. Total ordinary revenue for 2001-2002 was estimated at $4,859 million, an increase of only 1.3 %, which is even below the mid-year estimate for 2000-2001. In the Fiscal Plan total program expenses at $4,094 million are 1.2 % below the 2000-2001 Budget estimates. The overall provincial deficit estimated in the fiscal plan for 2001-2002, is $91 million.

Balancing the Books and Improving Services

The estimates prepared by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia for 2001-2002 (column 4) show a radically different bottom line, one that balances the books and improves services with a surplus of $61 million.

The estimates for revenues are based on 2.4 % real GDP growth and 2 % inflation for 2001-2002. Equalization transfers to Nova Scotia will increase by $95 million to $1,375 million in 2001-2002, and Canada Health and Social Transfer payments . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would just like to gently remind the honourable member that Beauchesne does speak to extensive reading, and the honourable member does know that. It is done quite periodically here in the House, but the honourable member is drawing the bow quite far here at this particular time.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your intervention. I know you are right. I would say that I know I am drawing a long bow, but I would say in five or six hours of debate, I haven't done extensive reading. So if the Speaker can just allow me to, I guess I am three-quarters of the way through, so if he allowed me to finish, I think, in five or six hours, this is probably going to turn out to be five or six minutes.

[Page 6238]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member can continue and I did appreciate his reading from the dictionary, I believe it was yesterday morning.

MR. MACDONELL:

"The estimates for revenue are based on 2.4 % real GDP growth and 2.4 % inflation for the 2001-2006. Equalization transfers to Nova Scotia will increase by $95 million to $1,375 million in 2001-2002, and Canada Health and Social Transfer payments from the federal government will increase by $63 million to $586 million.

The net program expenses in column 4 were calculated by adjusting the Budget estimates for 2000-2001 by the expected rate of inflation of 2 %. Net debt servicing costs are as estimated in the province's Budget. These calculations show that province, without changing its tax policy, and without reducing departmental budgets, can eliminate its $260 million deficit in one year, and still have resources to devote to priority needs in the province. These calculations do not take into account of a possible one-time addition to revenue of $140 million, and annual savings in interest rates of $25 million per year, resulting from the sale of Nova Scotia Resources Limited, reported recently. Nor do they factor in other revenue enhancing options, such as the possible increase in tobacco taxes mooted by the premier.",

which I think all members would know that that is going to happen.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I don't have a copy of the document that he is reading. Would the member entertain a question?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance, on a question.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: I don't want to interrupt the member opposite's discussion. He did mention that he was going to talk about the document, but obviously I don't have a copy of it. But there are a few things there that threw me off a little bit, one of which of course, if I remember correctly because I am listening to the member opposite, I don't have the documents in front of me, saying that the fact that equalization, per their calculations, would increase $95 million this year.

Just to make a point, the previous Finance Minister has been stating that the numbers coming out of Ottawa show that equalization is going to be $88 million less than what we have budgeted. So that is a differential of $183 million of variance on the positive side, if you listen to what the honourable member opposite is saying. Maybe the member could take a point on a that. I appreciate that a lot of the numbers that they have used are used from the

[Page 6239]

numbers put out of Ottawa. A lot of them turn out to be factual. One of the things that we have disagreed on in the past is that the expectations of cost, they just assume that we hold the line on the cost of everything and they are basically at par. The revenue numbers have been relatively . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please. Would the honourable member please place his question.

MR. LEBLANC: Certainly, two points, one of which is whether or not he would comment on the expenditures, that assumption, whether that is credible? The other one is about the revenues. Maybe he could elaborate because I don't have the document in front of me? I thank the indulgence of the Speaker.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I think, if I understand his question, the revenue numbers I will submit to the minister so he can have a look at them and I certainly wouldn't mind discussing this with him, actually. I would be interested in doing that. In regard to the members of the other Opposition Party, that is a very good point. I would have to say that I am glad that the minister raised it because I think that for all members in this House, and certainly for Nova Scotians listening, that adds to the debate as to whose numbers are right. I would say that in presenting these numbers from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative, which tend to, I think a fairly large degree, match certainly some of the numbers that the province has indicated and they show that in Table 3.

So I would say that they have tried to be open enough as to say, here is ours, here is

the government's and here is what we think is different. So I will provide that. The $83 million by the members of the Third Party . . .

[9:30 a.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: $88 million.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, $88 million, I can't comment, I wish I could.

"On the other side of the ledger, the estimates in column 4 are based . . ." and I will be providing that, " . . . on projections of economic growth in Nova Scotia that may prove optimistic in the light of current concerns about the performance of the economy. Two points are relevant. First, many commentators are predicting an economic slow down for Canada, but significant economic growth is still present in their forecasts for 2001. Second, if growth in Nova Scotia in 2001 turns out to be a full 1 % less than that projected . . ."

[Page 6240]

and I mentioned that earlier, and I think earlier I had spoken to the Finance Minister and he said that this document is projecting growth greater than what the government is projecting and they indicate that if there is a slowdown and growth is a full 1 per cent less than projected,

" . . . the revenue estimates in column 4 would be reduced in the order of $30 million, certainly significant but not enough to generate a deficit.

Managing the Debt

The current ratio of debt to GDP . . ."

and this is an important point that I would like members to pay attention to

" . . . is high, and can be reduced. When the budget is balanced, the level of the debt remains constant. If the budget is balanced over a number of years, the burden of the debt will fall in relative terms as provincial GDP rises. This effect can be quite pronounced over time. At present, the debt is about $11 billion, and GDP in Nova Scotia $22 billion, for a ratio of 50 %. If the debt remains constant for 4 years and the economy increases by 5 % (nominal GDP), a year over this period, the debt to GDP ratio will fall to 41 %."

So what we are saying is, as your economy grows and your debt stays constant, you don't add to your debt, then the relationship of your debt to your GDP falls. Okay? (Interruption) Right.

"Similarly, the proportion of the provincial revenue devoted to servicing the debt will fall.

Moving Forward

The purpose of this paper is to put the budget discussion on a factual basis, starting with a status quo surplus . . . The government can, and should, begin to meet the most pressing needs in health, education, community services, and elsewhere. These needs have been generated by cutbacks, by a growing population, and in the health sector by some technological changes that improve service but also tend to increase costs. There is also a need to invest in areas that will save resources in the long run, such as attention to the needs of children living in poverty, better home care health services, and improved environmental enforcement."

[Page 6241]

I will table that, Mr. Speaker.

What I am trying to say here is that I think that the government has the money to take care of the health care workers but I don't think it has the priorities to take care of the health care workers. I would say even looking at the bottom line in this regard, that the health care system, not only the people who are working in it now, but to improve the system by enticing people to come into the system, trying to get new workers in the system to relieve the burden that the existing workers must carry is something the government has to consider. By not paying health care workers now what they are worth, they are demoralizing them further then they are. They can no longer carry the system on their back and they shouldn't have to carry a tax break to Nova Scotians on their back. That is unfair to them.

All Nova Scotians need to carry the burden for the health care system and Nova Scotians have indicated they would like to see their tax dollars go to the health care workers, rather than get a tax break. This is something the government should pay attention to because if it doesn't, it is only indicating that it is concerned about its own agenda, which is to get re-elected. The fact that this may have worked for Mike Harris is not reason enough to do it here. This is not Ontario. Nova Scotians are not Ontarians. Nova Scotians, I think, look at the world slightly differently.

We are one million people in a smaller province with a different lifestyle, and I would say maybe slightly different priorities, or more weight on the same priorities, and they would consider health care and health care workers to be number one in this province. If you are going to poll, now the Premier has said that Nova Scotians are concerned about the debt, well, sure, if you ask the one question they are going to say we are concerned about the debt, but if you ask them a question that relates their concern for the debt with their concern for health care or health care workers, they will give you a different answer. They are willing to prioritize what is most important to them. Why can't the government do that? That is what Nova Scotians elected you for.

Last evening I caught the news while I was at home, and I think that, in a nutshell, the lady who is shown here in the daily, Kay Dwyer, confronting the Premier, and her comments on television last night hit the nail on the head when she said because you don't have any money you have to take away our rights? I want to ask the Premier and the members of the government opposite, what value do you place on people's rights? How many rights will you remove in order to try to sell Nova Scotians to re-elect you? I want the members of the government side to think clearly, and if they are of a political bent - which they must be or they wouldn't be here - then they must have been paying attention to what happened to John Savage in this province; certainly the Premier was in this House at the time and he would have been well aware.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I remember, not because I was particularly political at the time this was happening, I wasn't and I would say if somebody had asked me in 1993,

[Page 6242]

will you be running for a seat in the Legislature for the 1998 election, I would have said no, because I had no intention at that time of doing that. I want to say that the Premier we have today, who was in this House of Assembly during those Savage years, should first and foremost realize what effect Savage policy had on the Liberal Party. We know where they are. I think that Nova Scotians should have twigged, because I remember an interview done by the Premier who, at that time, was the Leader of the Tory Party, and when they were questioning him about some of the policy and legislation by the Savage Government he said he agreed. Nova Scotians should have taken a message that day that, by electing John Hamm as Premier, we are getting the reincarnation of John Savage and I think the events of today indicate that.

This has been a rush to try to get this piece of legislation through this House. It was a rush in order to prevent a strike. The reason, I think, the government wanted to prevent a strike was because they were worried that if health care workers went out on strike that they wouldn't go back, and there is another lesson to be learned from other jurisdictions, because they have tried this. Governments that have taken on nurses in their provinces have not won; the nurses have won. I would say that if this government should have learned something, all they had to do was just look at what other provinces have done in the past, and they would have known they can't go down this road and win.

Now, health care workers are out on strike. I would say that government wants to be very careful, because passing this bill today may not necessarily mean they will go back. I want to ask the Premier and the members of his Cabinet: What is Plan B? What are you going to do then? I would say far better that you sit down and negotiate in good faith, forget this piece of legislation, at least see if the unions will accept binding arbitration, and that might be the best way to resolve this particular situation.

I think members in this House should be able to recognize from the voices outside the House that they are not pleased with this piece of legislation, and they definitely are empowered by this piece of legislation. I would say that two things that this government will manage to do with Bill No. 68 are, one, destroy the health care system, and the other is unite labour in this province, which I think is a good thing because in recent days the Premier has been talking about other legislation in the fall that will affect other unions. Not only has he not learned anything from other provinces, he hasn't learned anything from this experience in trying to get this piece of legislation through this House.

I am starting to realize now what the Tory agenda is. It is an us-and-them agenda. During the election, they pitted the mainland against industrial Cape Breton. I would say that I am not sure if the Premier is taking a page out of the Harris book or he is taking a page out of the Buchanan book, but certainly history will show - if they look, and I imagine likely the Tories did - that John Buchanan formed a government in this province with no seats in Cape Breton. So they thought, let's hang Cape Breton out on a limb and use the dollars that have

[Page 6243]

been spent by Tory Governments on Sysco and make that an issue. That is something the mainlanders will buy into. Forget Cape Breton.

I would say that Cape Bretoners are forgiving, they have to be. They elected a Tory member in Cape Breton North, the seat of the previous Liberal Premier, thinking that having a member, well I think they were assuming they would have a member at the Cabinet Table, but certainly having a member at the caucus table would be a voice for their concerns. We found out recently how great a voice that has been, setting the criteria for meetings with health care workers, limiting the numbers and telling them outright that he will be supporting this bill no matter what his constituents say. I think they really recognized what a voice they have in their member for Cape Breton North.

I think this government has been extremely lucky, to this point. I can't think of any government that has attacked its power base in a way that this government has. The cuts to the Department of Agriculture attacked rural Nova Scotia in a way that we hadn't seen. There were cuts under the Liberal Regime, but certainly not to the extent that we saw them with this Tory Government. All of us now, certainly in the New Democratic Party, would know that if we could get seats in rural Nova Scotia, we would be extremely appreciative. We have been unable to make any great breakthroughs in rural Nova Scotia. That we consider to be a Tory power base, and what do the Tories do when they get in power? They kick rural Nova Scotia at every turn. Now, certainly, I hope that the people there will recognize that for what it is.

By keeping people divided, you have been able to work your agenda. I hope that at some point Nova Scotians will unite, they will start to recognize what a sham and shame this government is and how it has moved to work against the very things that Nova Scotians feel to be the most important things to them in this province.

I am not sure why it is that doctors as Premiers are the hardest on the health care system, but then again we had a farmer who was the Minister of Agriculture, he was the hardest on the Department of Agriculture. So people we think would have the best insight into the workings of the system, would have the best insight into the load that health care workers carry and the best insight into the value of those workers, are the very Premiers who seem to have worked the hardest to demoralize and destroy the system.

[9:45 a.m.]

I read yesterday and I tabled here in the House the definitions of fairness in a couple of dictionaries. I want to say that their definitions certainly, which would indicate remove personal emotion, be unbiased, et cetera, et cetera, are not definitions that we see the Premier using, Mr. Speaker, and I am not sure if I have the news article - I guess I don't - the interview that the Premier had done with David Rodenhiser, which he indicated that he couldn't let the definition of fairness get out of the government's hands. In other words, you

[Page 6244]

couldn't let somebody else define fairness. In other words, the government thinks that they have the only definition for fairness - our way or the highway.

I think what the government has to realize is in the case of health care workers it has been the highway for some time. Health care workers have been leaving. They are not willing to put up with this government's agenda and for anybody who can go, they're going. Only those who have a tie to this province and feel they can't leave are the ones who are carrying the burden of the health care system.

I want to say that the government should be careful because for those who feel that there is a value for staying, this piece of legislation may tip the scales for leaving. It may be enough for them to say I am not putting up with this any longer. Their futures and their families' futures are on the line here and they have every right to expect that they can fulfill their dreams and their commitments to themselves first and not the dreams or commitments of the government. Somewhere they have to draw a line and think about themselves and their families.

I would say that the government in this piece of legislation may have pushed them too far and I would say if it has, then I really want to see what plan B is, what it looks like when this thing totally collapses on the part of the government because in a few hours this bill is going to pass. I can see from the past few days, I thought that there would be members on the backbench of the government who actually would strongly consider voting against this piece of legislation, but over the past few days that idea for me is starting to disappear. I can see that the backbenchers have stiffened their resolve. They will even argue, not necessarily in the Chamber, but in discussions outside the Chamber you can see them trying to fortify the government line and actually have bought into it. I am amazed.

I think that even in a personal way, if they were to do any investigation at all, just the same as I look at the numbers produced by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, that should be enough to make those backbenchers ask a few questions. Are the numbers as presented by the government truly accurate? What are we doing with the $120 million that we have taken out of the pockets of Nova Scotians by increased taxes and user fees? Where is that going? What's the purpose of that? In a large way that would go towards paying for the increased salaries to health care workers, but the government hasn't even acknowledged to the Nova Scotia taxpayers that it has taken that.

I would say, Mr. Speaker, that I certainly hope that if those members feel that they can strengthen their resolve here in the Chamber and vote yes for this piece of legislation, I want to know what is going to strengthen their resolve when they get home to their constituencies because I would think that the health care workers in their areas are going to want to have something to say to them and maybe the best time to say it - they won't have to take long - will be in the next election and it only takes a minute or less to mark an x on a ballot. That might be the loudest message that this Tory Government is going to get.

[Page 6245]

Mr. Speaker, this debate started many days ago with the government's release and it said, "'Despite our best efforts to reach agreements through collective bargaining, the threat of multiple strikes now places the well-being of Nova Scotians in jeopardy', said Mr. Russell. 'We value our health care employees. Without them, the system can't meet people's needs. We must act to protect Nova Scotians.'"

Well, Mr. Speaker, we know today that that is not true. We know today that health care workers have provided a competent, well-thought-out contingency plan that the government totally disregarded. It didn't take very many days actually, I guess what happened was the government realized that this spin that they put on the need for this legislation, that Nova Scotians weren't buying it, that Nova Scotians were supporting health care workers. Nova Scotians were wanting to see dollars spent in an area that they feel is most important and when the government found out that saying they were doing this to protect Nova Scotians and the health care system, wasn't working, then they shifted tactics and said it was a money issue which was the very thing that the Opposition had been saying from the very start, that this was based on the bottom line, but we know now that the government does have the money if it so desired to spend it.

So the question has to be, why not? Why aren't you spending it? What's coming over the hill? What is it that Nova Scotians don't know? What is it that these health care workers don't know and why haven't you told them? Why haven't you been up front with them and explained exactly what your plan is and why it is you expect them to pay for it? Mr. Speaker, I think in the Premier's definition of fairness, we can see why that hasn't been done.

"The decision to recall the legislature was prompted by information received today by Health Minister Jamie Muir that a strike by health care workers would leave Nova Scotians without the critical services they need." Well, Mr. Speaker, health care workers in this province have stated that if a strike did occur, there would be some departments that would get more staff during a strike than they do currently, more staff than they get every day. This is something, even the potential of that should be enough for the minister to recognize that these people are dealing fairly with the government. They are dealing openly with the government and to say that he can't trust health care workers, the very people who go to work every day to help save people's lives in this province and he can't trust them, I think maybe today he can't trust them with his life, but for the lives of Nova Scotians, they have shown their commitment. They have even put their own families on the back burner on occasion to go back to work and help the sick in this province. (Applause)

"'Fair and reasonable offers have been made to Nova Scotia nurses and other health care workers', he said. 'The rejection of these offers has left government with little alternative to introducing legislation to ensure the health and safety of Nova Scotians.'" I want to say it seems to me that this piece of legislation was brought in the very same day that a mediator was put onto this case to help negotiate some resolution. We found out just in recent days that the government had been polling with this very question back in May to find

[Page 6246]

out what Nova Scotians thought and actually they misread the results of that poll, thinking that that gave them a mandate to bring in this legislation, that Nova Scotians would approve, and they missed the boat. Nova Scotians certainly didn't and they certainly didn't approve when they found all the facts because the poll, the questions in the poll that the government used, they didn't give all the information to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I want to table documents from New Glasgow, the Premier's riding. This is a ballot box containing 704 ballots, 693 support killing Bill No. 68, 11 oppose.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, Beauchesne and our very own Rules and Forms of Procedure talk to tabling documents and while it is a highly unusual type of document, it is, nonetheless, tabled.

MR. MACDONELL: Here is another one, Mr. Speaker. This is a banner from the flea market with over 500 signatures supporting kill Bill No. 68.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member for Hants East who does have the floor, that could easily be interpreted as being a prop and the honourable member does know that, as does his assistant. (Interruptions) Order, please. I would ask one of the Pages to please remove that from the table. Order, please. The honourable member for Hants East has approximately eight minutes remaining.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if I see the difference between a prop and propaganda because that is exactly what this government has tried to spell out to Nova Scotians, put their spin on this crisis and somehow blame health care workers in this province for the state of health care. I would say that when this bill passes and when the health care workers are forced back to work, that the government will continue to blame them for underfunding the health care system.

We have seen this more than once. We have seen the Minister of Health stand in his place when we talked about the lack of dollars going to any particular part of the health care system, then the Minister of Health would blame it on the district health authorities, but there was absolutely no recognition of the fact of where the district health authorities get their money. They get it from the government. We have seen the Minister of Education blame the school boards for decisions that they had to make, but never acknowledge that school boards get their money from the government.

We have seen the Minister of Agriculture, and actually only recently his invention of the Agriculture Development Institute, blame the institute for decisions that are made on agriculture, even though he has given $2.2 million of taxpayers' dollars to the institute. So it is always great to have a scapegoat, somebody you can blame, but Nova Scotians are not fooled by the agenda of this government. They are not fooled by the workings of government. They know that their taxpayers' dollars are supposed to fund what they believe are their

[Page 6247]

priorities. So to try to blame any of these institutions that government has created to use to sidestep their responsibility, even though they have crippled them with a lack of funding, Nova Scotians are not going to buy that.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned in a previous hour of debate that I have two sisters who are RNs. One of them is still working in the system and she is with the Victorian Order of Nurses. She is someone that I worry about because she works alone. She goes from home to home by herself with no protection to take care of sick and ailing Nova Scotians. Although as honourable as that may be, I worry about her going into somebody's house, who is a perfect stranger, to do her job. I want to say that one of the most common injuries to nurses, the health care workers in this province, are probably back injuries because most nurses in this province are women. The people who are sick in this province aren't all women. I would say that I have no regard for the workers' compensation system to take care of nurses if they hurt themselves.

[10:00 a.m.]

So not only are we asking them to do a job and do it underpaid, we are asking them to do a job that really has its own negative health impacts on the workers themselves. Now I don't expect the government to try to improve the workers' compensation system. We know that when that bill went through the House, the Tories basically endorsed that Liberal bill in 1998. But I do expect that the government will show that it recognizes the value of these health care workers and will support them with remuneration that would indicate the respect that they deserve.

I want my sisters to know, I want this government opposite to know, I want the people listening to know that I think this piece of legislation is the most draconian thing that has come through this House of Assembly. I want them to know that I don't support it. I think there is a better way to treat Nova Scotians who actually have shown their commitment to this province, and I want to say, Mr. Speaker, I would like to move adjournment of debate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Recorded vote.

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a motion to adjourn debate. As well, a recorded vote has been called for. The bells will ring to the satisfaction of the Whips.

[Ring the bells. Call in the members.]

[10:01 a.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[Page 6248]

MR. SPEAKER: A recorded vote has been called for on the adjournment of debate. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The Clerk will call the roll.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[11:01 a.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Deveaux Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. Holm Mr. Christie

Mr. Downe Mr. Baker

Mr. Boudreau Mr. Russell

Mr. MacKinnon Dr. Hamm

Mr. MacDonell Mr. LeBlanc

Mr. Epstein Mr. Muir

Mr. Steele Miss Purves

Mr. Fage

Mr. Balser

Mr. Parent

Ms. McGrath

Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Olive

Mr. Morse

Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Taylor

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. Hurlburt

Mr. O'Donnell

THE CLERK: For, 8. Against, 30.

[Page 6249]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

I would like to call upon the Liberal member to take part in the debate on Bill No. 68.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the title of Bill No. 68. Essentially, in layman's terms rather than getting into a lot of technical language, it is An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia, better known as essential services legislation, with no provision for strike, no provision for arbitration, no provision for appeal to any quasi-judicial board of examination, or any court of this province or indeed, of this country.

I was somewhat surprised but at the same time, somewhat intrigued, by some comments made by an individual on CBC morning news radio program, perhaps shortly after 8:00 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. this morning. If my memory serves me correctly, his name was Brian Steeves, who is the Director of Nursing at St. Martha's Hospital in Antigonish. I believe the Premier and perhaps the good member for Antigonish would be quite familiar with this particular gentleman, because he identified himself as being not only the Director of Nursing at St. Martha's Hospital, but also as being a very avid supporter of the Conservative Government of Nova Scotia and indeed, of the Premier of this province.

What I found rather interesting was this particular gentleman, and he seemed to be quite a thoughtful and reasoned individual who understood the dynamics of what a strike would mean here in Nova Scotia. He also seemed to understand the significance and importance of the nurses and other health care workers to the health care field. I think what stood out the most was his unreserved position in stating that Bill No. 68 was nothing short of being a draconian measure, to deal with health care concerns here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

It wasn't just the fact he made that observation, but rather that he went into some detail as to the dynamics surrounding the particular health care impasse between the health care workers, the hospital boards and indeed, ultimately, the Government of Nova Scotia. He indicated that unlike doctors - and I stand to be corrected because there was another guest on the program as well, a Doctor Lahey, from down in the southwestern part of the province, so it may have been one of the two who made this observation but something tells me it was the Director of Nursing from St. Martha's - come in, examine a patient and make a quick prognosis, if the patient is recovering or some type of quick analysis to ascertain as to whether the patient needs long-term care, short-term care, given the dynamics of the situation, obviously. A nurse or a health care worker, whether it be an LPN or what have you, for the most part is found in a position where he or she - and she, because we are dealing predominantly in a female-dominated career choice here - would have to stay with a patient for the majority of her shift.

[Page 6250]

There is a lot of emotional strain and stress put on the health care worker because of the situation, where a patient may be critically ill, the patient could be dying, or it could be just a situation where you really don't know if a patient will get better or if a patient is going to get even more sick. Also, the psychological pressure that is put on the health care worker, because of the stress and the strain that is being felt by family members who are around the patient as well and that's translated in some measure to the health care worker who is in attendance with the patient for an extended period of time. That particular health care worker would have to not only monitor the patient's temperature, blood pressure, all the IVs, to make sure that the appropriate medication is applied, trying to find some words of comfort to assure the patient that things will be better, even sometimes when the health care worker or their nurse knows that things may not be so good, but they always hope for the best and they carry that as a personal burden, Mr. Speaker, and they also try to comfort the family and they try to make the family feel as if things will be nothing but better as the minutes and the hours and the days pass. Sometimes the days aren't always the end result, it is just the seconds, the minutes and the hours.

I don't believe there is a member of this Legislature who hasn't experienced some type of emotional stress by attending to a family member, or themselves for that matter, or a loved one, or a family friend, or just someone who they know, a long-standing acquaintance, who doesn't know what that means. So you go back to the health care worker and what do you have? You have a professional who has not only the obligation and a duty to be able to distance themselves from a lot of this emotional stress and strain that they find themselves drawn into because they are trained professionals, they have to perform and carry out certain duties and responsibilities that come with the oath of their office. When they study and they graduate and they become full-fledged RNs, or whatever health care worker job description that may be in their career, it is very difficult because, Mr. Speaker, as we've noticed in the last several pieces of legislation that have been put forth, not only in this session but the previous session of the Legislature dealing with health care in Nova Scotia, there is an increased professional liability as well as responsibility on health care workers in this province.

Nurses and health care workers, excepting doctors, are accepting more and more responsibilities of what was generally deemed to be or considered as a physician's responsibility and that, to me, kind of symbolizes a lot of what is happening across not only the various municipalities in this province, or indeed from the provincial level down to the municipal level from a governmental point of view, or indeed from the federal level down to the provincial and subsequently to the municipal level it is a downloading of responsibility, and I guess what the Director of Nursing at St. Martha's Hospital told us in short form was that the nursing profession, the health care workers in Nova Scotia can't accept any more pressure than has been put on them presently.

A large part of the problem is we don't have sufficient staffing in the province. To bring in legislation that would require health care workers to be legislated to work overtime

[Page 6251]

when they go home at the end of the day, or perhaps, in the middle of the week, or near the end of the week, and having worked perhaps one or two overtime shifts and then to be directed back to the health care facility and told to put 150 per cent in, Mr. Speaker, when they're suffering from burnout, they're tired, they've put their full service in on the job site at their place of employment. They have families much the same as we have families. They don't have the luxury of working, from midnight to midnight or even midnight to 12:00 noon, and being able to sit in a chair and sleep, which has been observed not only by ourselves, but the people of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

[11:15 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We certainly welcome our guests in the gallery today. I know you're here to watch the proceedings of the House, but I would ask you to not respond either positively or negatively to what is happening on the floor, please. Thank you.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it wasn't my intent to try to elicit a round of emotional outburst just to cater to the cameras and I think the Speaker knows me full well for that. As Plato once said - and I am going to paraphrase because it was stated by a rather eloquent speaker, more so than myself, on a previous day - that with learning comes emotion. If the government members haven't learned anything by this process at this point, then there is absolutely no emotion on that side of the floor. There is no compassion. There is no feeling. There is no understanding about what's happening. If not just for the health care workers, Mr. Speaker, it is indeed for the patients in the hospitals and for the people of Nova Scotia, yes, the stakeholders who have to foot the bill and, yes, the patients in the hospitals, the health care workers, whether they be RNs, LPNs, or dietitians, or what have you, they are all stakeholders. I find it distressing to think that a government may have orchestrated this strike. I don't like to think that, I don't want to believe that, but one can't draw any other conclusion when they look at all the facts.

Fact number one, we went through a rather lengthy, and I think one would argue a rather complicated session of the Legislature from February right through until June, and the government had ample opportunity to deal with essential services legislation. Mr. Speaker, it chose not to. At the same time, or during the course of that time-frame, the government undertook a poll to find out how people felt with the possibility of a strike and the need for continuing health care services in Nova Scotia. The result of that was made well known to the government at least six weeks before coming back to the House here, and at least perhaps two to three weeks before the government closed the House down. So, obviously, they knew.

Another point in fact is the Premier's own comments, when he stated just days before the Government House Leader, through you, Mr. Speaker, requested that the House be reconvened to deal with Bill No. 68, he stated, in the heat of the battle is not the time to bring in back-to-work legislation because it draws into the emotion of the situation. The best time

[Page 6252]

to deal with it is when all this is dealt with. Essentially put, by the Premier, in a calmer, more reasoned forum.

Another concerning reason, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that the government says that it is about finance. Well, let's look at it. Where is the $200-some million that was budgeted for for the cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds and the coke ovens? That wasn't spent in the previous year budget. Where did it go? The Minister of Finance likes to flag the big deficit flagship attributing part of the overall deficit to the province in part to the high cost of the environmental cleanup at the Sydney steel plant site but yet they don't spend the money and he says it is not really there, it is just paper talk.

Well, you can't have it both ways. Is he saying that the deficit really wasn't $498 million, that it was only $200 and some million, or what is it? You can't have double-talk to the people of Nova Scotia because it breeds contempt and mistrust, not only for the government but for all politicians. That is why the health care workers don't trust the figures that the government is putting out.

Another concern that makes people somewhat suspect is the fact that the Minister of Health has all but said that the wage increases for the most part have been included in his budgetary process. So we are not talking new dollars here, they budgeted for it, and to try to convey the message that the taxpayers are going to be hit with another additional $100 million is not correct, much the same as the Minister of Education with her budget, in settling the outstanding issues with the teachers for their wage settlements that have been outstanding and have gone through several quasi-judicial forms and arbitration processes. As well, we have the Government House Leader saying we are broke, we have no money. Well, of all the government members who would know that, he would, because he was part of the government that bankrupted the province.

But let's give credit where credit is due. Let's stop looking in the past, because there is enough sin to go around for everybody, whether it be at the municipal, the provincial or the federal level. Yes, I honestly believe that the issue of federal cutbacks has been a contributing factor, but I will focus on that in a moment. Let's look at the cost of restructuring government. The Minister of Finance knows full well, as does every member of that Cabinet - at least they should - that the budgetary figures that have been put out for the cost of reducing the size of government and the cost to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, what they budgeted for and what they have spent in the last two years, are two different figures altogether, quite substantially. The Government House Leader, by his own admission, in budgets, he indicated that for this year we will be spending close to $18 million less than was budgeted, $18 million less for the cost of restructuring government.

Mr. Speaker, they don't have to accept my word on that, check Hansard. Hansard has been printed; those are his own words. As well, last year or in the previous budget all that money wasn't spent either. Yes, it is one thing to flag the big deficit and big burden on the

[Page 6253]

taxpayers of Nova Scotia, and I think that is the right thing to do because governments, for years, have been spending more than they have been taking in, they have been buying people's votes, they have been trying to ingratiate themselves at the eleventh hour to get back into power, and people have bought into that, from all professions, all walks of life, not just the health care workers, not just the politicians, not just the doctors, not just the highway workers, but the majority of the people of this province and, I am sure, other jurisdictions; otherwise we wouldn't have found ourselves in the state we are in.

That having been said, that is no reason for this government who holds itself out as being open, accountable, and committed to true reform, the flagship of strong leadership, to try to manipulate the process and mislead the people once again. That is what they are doing and that is why the health care workers of this province don't trust what is going on. Ultimately, the people of Nova Scotia don't trust what the government is doing. If the government had been smart, if they had been wise to the situation, they would have sat down months ago with the health care workers, opened up the books and said here, there is only so much we are going to be able to give to you because we have other contracts coming up, the pie is only so big. Here is the big picture. Let's sit down and try to rationalize.

But they didn't do that. They jerked the chain, behind the scenes, at the negotiating process between the representatives for the health care workers and the hospital boards. Much the same as what the Premier did when he interfered with the boundary dispute between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and what happened? He got egg on his face.

There is not one health worker in this province that I know of who is against protecting the health and the safety and the well-being of the patients in our health care facilities, whether it be at a hospital, a nursing home or what have you. They are not against that, in fact, they were even prepared to give up the right to strike in exchange for binding arbitration. They were even prepared to sign an essential services contract with the Province of Nova Scotia, through the hospital agencies, in the event of a strike, to guarantee. What happened? In both cases, the government gave it the thumbs-down.

The government had no design on trying to come to a peaceful resolve, for the lack of a better phrase, and I don't mean that in the generic sense that there is going to be violence, but rather a congenial forum where negotiators for both sides would be able to come to a conclusion where not everybody would be happy with what you got, but at least everybody would understand that there is give-and-take in negotiation and everybody would get a little something that would at least give them peace of mind, and recognize, of all things, what these health care workers have been through over the last 10 years.

Yes, just to dispel the partisan shots that may be forthcoming, whether it be from this caucus, the NDP caucus or the government caucus, as I have said before, there is enough blame to go around. The government may have very well come in on polling with Bill No. 68, but they are going out in shame, because this is terrible.

[Page 6254]

What is happening here in this province is totally unnecessary, but yet I cannot help but believe it was orchestrated by the government to build up an emotional frenzy against these health care workers because they are "in a union", and let's get the people of Nova Scotia offside with them and onside with us, because we know what is best for the people of Nova Scotia. It worked in Alberta; it worked in Ontario. Mr. Speaker, this is not Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia or any other province, this is Nova Scotia and this is where we have a responsibility, not only to the health care workers, not only to the patients in the hospitals but to all Nova Scotians.

The government members stood during the Committee of the Whole House, they stood up, there was a parade of them, and that is good, I welcome that. I really thought that we were going to get some constructive debate, but in the final analysis, despite all the attempts by the government members to accuse the Opposition of being the instigators of this strike, they themselves took the time to filibuster their own bill. I couldn't believe it. They filibustered their own bill.

[11:30 a.m.]

The Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations stood up and gave a 14 minute dissertation on what the Rules of the House were. Why didn't he talk about the title of the bill? Why didn't he allow the debate to proceed, clause by clause, so perhaps some of the amendments that were being put forth by the Opposition, or at least proposed, would be considered? They still have the option. They still have the numbers. They could vote them down. They know that. We didn't fall off a turnip truck yesterday. The people of Nova Scotia don't buy into these political games anymore. It doesn't matter what caucus, Mr. Speaker, it is embarrassing to all members of this House that a government would be caught in such a situation.

Let's look at the federal government. Yes, I think the federal government has dealt a rather harsh blow to Atlantic Canada in the last number of years, from, I would say - and I could be off a few years or a year or two - between 1993 and 1998, I think 1997-98 is when they started to come back and started putting in some health care dollars, the CHST and so on. But as one of the honourable members said - I believe it was the member for Cape Breton North - that all the CHST dollars that would be coming in - and this was at a meeting the weekend past in his constituency with some representatives from the nursing profession - would all be put into health care.

It doesn't work that way. Somebody in government should explain to that honourable member that he was misleading the people in his constituency, perhaps unwittingly, but it is not just for health care, that CHST money, although the province has the latitude to move some dollars around, maybe an extra $5 million or $10 million or $20 million here and probably $5 million less there because we are doing well in Education and not as well in Health so we can move some dollars around. But on balance, Mr. Speaker, that was a very

[Page 6255]

irresponsible statement for that member to make. I attribute it in part because of his naivety, because he is a new member and it is a lot for a new member to absorb. We went through it.

Mr. Speaker, I think, yes, there is a shared responsibility with the federal government. But it wasn't the federal government that put the blue book together with 51 commitments in health care. It wasn't the federal government that made a commitment to clean up all the problems in health care for $46 million. The Tory caucus knew full well, at that point in time, what the CHST dollars were, what the transfer dollars were for health care. They knew full well because it would have been different if the Liberal Government of the day was a majority government, it wasn't, it was a minority. The Opposition Parties had great insights into the budgetary process, which would lend one to believe that what was stated in the blue book was in fact of considerable substance and truth. In other words, it was really believable.

I have to admit that when I watched the all-candidates debate between the Leaders, I was quite intrigued by the then Leader of the Third Party, who is now Premier. The fact that he could say that he could correct all the problems in health care for $46 million. I was at a loss because here I am, sitting in Cabinet. We had proposed a $650-plus million health care investment fund with some strategic health care plans attached to it and some restrictions on the disposition of that fund on the obligations to the taxpayers, and he comes up with a plan to correct all the health care problems for $46 million. I tell you, I was blown away.

Mr. Speaker, that is what the people of Nova Scotia believed, much the same as they believed a lot of other things, much the same as what they believed when the government introduced Bill No. 68 because, by the government's own polling, the majority of the people didn't want to strike. But see what the government forgot was that, by golly, the people of Nova Scotia want the truth. They want all the facts. They want as much detail as possible. How is it that on one day we are going to correct all the problems in health care for $46 million and two years later, we are after spending close to $400 million, more than four times, more than 400 per cent more than what the government said it was going to spend.

What do we have? We have complete chaos within the Department of Health management systems. We have a deputy minister who doesn't even have the intestinal fortitude to come before this House and lend accountability and support to his minister because he doesn't like the democratic process. That is unprecedented, Mr. Speaker, in the Province of Nova Scotia, that a deputy minister, two years in a row, refuses to come and explain his role in the accountability for a $1.8 billion budget, at the same time they are reducing the roles and the responsibility at the local level through the so-called community health boards, or whatever term the government so chooses to use.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is rather concerning. The government had ample opportunity on Bill No. 68 to get up and defend it. I have to be honest, I think that the Minister of Health made an excellent presentation the other morning on health care. I didn't agree with all his rationale, but I believe that he provided greater insight to anyone who was willing to learn

[Page 6256]

and listen on some of the complex issues within the Department of Health that perhaps we didn't even know, or maybe we didn't want to know. We just blinded ourselves to it.

Mr. Speaker, again, let's go back to the issue - this issue of labour management, this issue with the nurses is a budgeted issue. The Cabinet is not going to have to go back down next Thursday or tomorrow or whenever the next Cabinet meeting is and go and make additional, special appropriations. They are not going to have to do that but, yet, that is what they are trying to make the people of Nova Scotia believe. I agree, we can't continue to spend more than we are taking in, but it is a question of priorities. Isn't that what it is all about? There was no more money for the Halifax Regional School Board and then when chaos hit, after the Halifax West High School disaster, on how they were going to manage repositioning the students for the next fiscal year, the province, whoa, just found $1 million. Wow. But that went up in smoke because the CEO of the board kind of made a proclamation about where the students were going to go before he even had all the environmental assessment reports for those facilities where he was going to disperse the students. What happened? That went up in his face.

Now we are talking about shipping the students from Halifax West over to Cole Harbour. These are not refugees. We are dealing with children's lives. At least they have the comfort of knowing they are going to be together. I will give credit for that and I congratulate the parents. There is $1 million there. What about down at the Halifax Shipyard terminals? They were provided with a simulator last Friday, over $1 million. (Interruption) The Minister of Education is saying no. So, that has been put on hold. Okay. So, if it is not true, then the media has misinformed the people of Nova Scotia, and I will take that on notice because I like to be fair.

Mr. Speaker, all the additional dollars that were spent, close to $0.5 million more, between P & P and the Premier's Office, propping up the propaganda component of government. In the Department of Health, we have a Deputy Minister of Health, we have an Assistant Deputy Minister of Health, we have an Associate Deputy Minister of Health, we have two executive assistants to the minister, we have two communications officers, and who knows what else. Now, if you have lots of money for that, is it because the people of Nova Scotia are so ill-informed? Is it because the people of Nova Scotia just aren't getting the message that the government is right and everybody else is wrong, and this is what has to be done?

Mr. Speaker, the clanging won't go away in a hurry. You can legislate it out, we can legislate it out, but I think all members know, as I have said before, you cannot legislate opinion. A government from a previous day demonstrated the same signs. If the nurses were allowed to come down and do our blood pressure or what have you, check our heart, pulse, I think they would find that the government is showing the vital signs of arrogance and indifference to what the people of Nova Scotia are saying. Yes, we can have the cheerleaders

[Page 6257]

from the backbenches on the government side get up and down and up and down with silly diatribes, but it doesn't really answer the problem.

Mr. Speaker, where does that leave us? It leave us in a very unfortunate situation. In some ways, I kind of feel sorry for the government. They backed themselves into a corner, politically, and as much as they tried to blame the Opposition, as much as they tried to blame the nurses, they still failed. With all that power and all that money, they snafu-ed, they fouled up, they didn't succeed. It was like going into an election when you are about 20 points ahead in the polls, well, they were well ahead in the polls, according to their own polling, on Bill No. 68, but I would venture to say they are slipping and they are slipping big time.

The people of Nova Scotia, every individual, every family, every family member, every friend, they all know the importance of health care and the necessity for vital health care services. Yes, even if that means essential services for the people of Nova Scotia to be provided. They are fair-minded people too. Why is it that every other provincial jurisdiction in this country provides for either essential services legislation, some type of a restricted striking provision or, indeed, binding arbitration, and this province has none, none of those features? Why? Where does this dogma come from? This is not the 1930's or 1940's.

One thing that, perhaps, government should realize is that things are not as editorialized as they once were. You look around this Chamber and we see the cameras. Everything is instantaneous, it is almost milliseconds. As soon as it is said, I am sure as I am speaking here, there could very well be somebody in British Columbia listening to it right now, because telecommunications makes government that accessible to the people, not that they would want to hear what I have to say. The fact of the matter is governments can't manipulate and the editorial boards within the media, they can't control the message like they once did. Some of these right-wing newspapers, they can come down and support the government, or they can find reason not to support the government. The people of Nova Scotia, they are listening, they are reading, they are seeing, they are hearing, they are witnessing for themselves. They are not all gobbled up by what somebody else says anymore. They take it, they absorb it and they make their own analysis, more so than they ever did.

[11:45 a.m.]

They are not as gullible, they are not as gullible as they were from 1978 to 1992-93. I think it stopped around 1992, that is when the gullibility stopped. The contempt kind of kicked in from 1992-93 and it carried on for a little thereafter. I think it is fair to say that, because the numbers in this House clearly demonstrate that. They say the life expectancy of a politician in Nova Scotia is between six and a half and seven years. Well, six and a half to seven years, that is what they say. Go out and do the numbers.

There are a few anomalies in here. Some, I would suggest, are like a loaf of bread in the store, I think they have passed the due date, the life expectancy, the shelf life is coming

[Page 6258]

to an end. I think history will always show, as well, that the life expectancy, the shelf life - if we want to put it in that context - is usually shorter if you are a member on the government side, and even more so if you are a member on the government side and you are a backbencher. Ever since they brought in the Party Whip system some 35, 40 years ago - I don't want to get into a history lesson on it because I don't want to detract too much from the principle of what we are talking about here, the title on Bill No. 68 - it was basically to whip all the dissenters into order, so that the principle of responsible government was kind of pushed a little off to the side, so that Party loyalty became your number one instrument to survival.

Mr. Speaker, we have come full circle. I would suggest, and I am going to make a prediction, I think it would be fair to say I am living evidence that that principle doesn't necessarily apply, putting Party politics ahead of the interests of your constituents. That is why between the modes of communication that we have before us and the fact that people aren't as gullible as they once were - I shouldn't say the word gullible so much as I should use the phrase or term - they are not as trusting because they are tired of sending politicians off to do a job only to come home and find that they have let them down. What they say on the doorstep they are going to do and what they do when they get there are two different things.

That was a classic example over in Cape Breton North, when the good member for Cape Breton North told everyone in attendance at that meeting that it didn't matter if every constituent, if 100 per cent of his constituents, wanted him to oppose Bill No. 68 he was still going to vote for it. You tell me the logic of standing in this House and supporting the principles of responsible government and coming up with a statement like that?

Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate if the honourable member was a member of Cabinet, and there are certain rules for Cabinet solidarity. I can understand even more so if it was a budgetary item, because if the budget falls the government falls. Here, we have a backbencher from the governing Party, he is not a member of the government despite what he may think, or any of the backbenchers on that side, they are not members of the government, they may think they are but they are not. They are members of the governing Party. The only reason they are doing what they are doing is because of 35 to 40 years of discipline that has been imposed by various political Parties to ensure their political stability and governance, whether it be at the federal or the provincial level. That was a tradition that was carried down.

I have noticed some members from the governing Party, they abstained from voting by not attending the Chamber. Well, that, perhaps, was out of respect for their caucus colleagues, and I respect them for that. Perhaps there were other reasons. At least they had the intestinal fortitude to do what their constituents wanted them to do. Sometimes it is all a question of whose ox has been gored the latest, in politics. That is what it is sometimes. You will have Party members who have certain job descriptions and they have an obligation,

[Page 6259]

much the same as health care workers have in the health care field or doctors do to their patients, or like myself as a surveyor in my profession, or what have you. Sometimes people abuse those job descriptions. They don't say that they are, but they have their own personal agendas.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that before the government buries itself totally, and the glimmer of hope, that they find some way of resolving the polarization that exists between this government and the health care workers and the people of Nova Scotia, which is now starting to develop. I was at a graduation exercise. I had the good fortune of attending a graduation exercise at Coxheath last evening, Riverview Rural High School. It was surprising (Interruptions) Well, our daughter was one of the graduates, and we are quite proud of her. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to get sidetracked on personal matters. I think the point I am about to make is the fact that I was surprised at the number of ordinary citizens who came up and wanted to know what in the heck was going on up here in the Legislature. The first question I would ask them is, are you a health care worker? It is like politicians, if they criticize the government generally they are accused of having another agenda. I wanted to ascertain as much independence into the discussion as I possibly could before I engaged in any lengthy debates because as you can appreciate it was a graduation exercise and we were there for celebrating, for other reasons.

I was amazed at the number of citizens, I would have to qualify by saying 13, maybe 14 of them that I have to admit I don't know who they were, they introduced themselves - I perhaps know them or know their family just generally at this point - saying how unsettled they were at the way the government was treating the nurses. I know there are other health care workers involved, but that was the phrase they used. How, in the name of heavens, could you mistreat the nurses who are looking after the sick, the dying and the elderly and the disadvantaged, both physically and mentally, in this province? That was the message I got. How the member for Cape Breton North could have gotten a different message, I am rather perplexed.

Mr. Speaker, going back to the process, I believe that if the government came into this House and, I think, they had articulated their positions perhaps a little differently, it wouldn't make the end conclusion of what they want to do correct because I don't agree with their approach, but they probably could have elicited more support from the people of Nova Scotia. The people of Nova Scotia are fair-minded people, and this government over here has isolated itself.

They have embarked on a process, I think they are at a crossroads. Either they change their ways and they change them quick or there will be a mindset that no matter what they say or what they do for the next two years, it won't matter, because just as they will do, the

[Page 6260]

people of Nova Scotia will do. They will make up their minds and they will say we don't want any more to do with that lot.

What I found really perplexing is the number of members from the governing Party who represented the people at the local level, at the municipal government level. Of all individuals in this House, they themselves with that experience, insight and knowledge of the government closest to the people should be the ones standing up and championing the cause and taking the time to, yes, listen to speeches even like the one that was put forth by the Minister of Health in the early hours of yesterday morning, because there were some good points in it. There were some very legitimate points. It wasn't a partisan speech per se.

It wasn't one that I felt that the minister had all his priorities straight because as you listened to it, you could tell that the spin doctors within the Department of Health, it was almost like I could see it in some sections, Mr. Speaker, like reading a book. It was almost like you looked up and you knew who the author was, the Deputy Minister of Health, because that dissertation that he provided is almost the same philosophy and the same tone of speech that was delivered in British Columbia.

I would invite the members from the governing Party to check the message, Mr. Speaker, and I would even like to respond to the good member for Dartmouth South when he chastised myself for saying that it was wrong for myself, hypocritical for myself to suggest, you know, the Premier's Campaign for Fairness was wrong by going to the 10-province base calculation, was pretty much the same that was advocated by the former Premier of the province, Premier Russell MacLellan.

Mr. Speaker, like anything else that has been put forth, his intent was good. It was very eloquent, but it was not complete. It was taken out of context and rather than get into a sidebar on that at this point, I would certainly invite the good member for Dartmouth South that he and I discuss this issue on the Campaign for Fairness a little more in detail and look at the dynamics of what the former Premier, Premier MacLellan, said as opposed to what I said and what his Premier is saying today, and has been saying for the last number of months, totally different, much the same as what the government said with Bill No. 131 by saying the terrible situation he found himself in in 1975 with Bill No. 131 when the Liberal Government tried to bring in back-to-work legislation. Well, binding arbitration was included in that. There is no binding arbitration in this, but let's be fair. Maybe he just simply forgot to tell the people of Nova Scotia that. Maybe his spin doctors didn't give him the full analysis of what was in that bill and that's why the people are upset.

I don't know what it is going to take to get through to that lot across. The people are upset. They were generally content to see the restructuring of government, to see some of the reforms that the government ran on a platform for and got elected, but they are very discontented with the fact that the government is now doing much the same as what John

[Page 6261]

Buchanan's Government did. They say one thing to the people and they do something else behind closed doors.

This is why the people are suspect, because of all the legislation that has been brought in: the amendments to the Education Act; the amendments to the Health Act; the amendments that were brought forth on the Occupational Health and Safety Act; the restructuring bill, Bill No. 20, to downsize government and to bring government further away from the legislation from which it was based upon and that is full accountability in this House. Now we have a government that doesn't even have to come to this House of Assembly to operate. That's the message. That's the reality, Mr. Speaker. For all intents and purposes we only need the Cabinet here for the government to function, but the missing link is that we would have a lack of accountability and that is why people elect us.

[12:00 noon]

So as much as the government may want to try to take the administration and the finance and the accountability away from the people of Nova Scotia, you are going to hear more of what is out on Granville Street. You are going to hear more of what is out on Hollis Street and you are going to hear not only out in front of the health care facilities, but you are going to hear it right across Nova Scotia. They will not tolerate that heavy-handed authoritarian style government because that is not, I am sure, what many of those members in the governing Party said that they were going to do when they came here.

Mr. Speaker, we were chastised for standing up and exercising our right as a loyal Opposition. The sad commentary is that the government is sitting right next to a large portrait of the architect of freedom of speech, Joseph Howe. Have they no shame? They might as well put a veil over his picture because they show nothing but contempt for the history and the traditions and the evolution of governance in this province.

Mr. Speaker, that is why I rose on a point of personal privilege the other day, because the problem is sometimes we end up with governments who will come in here with little or no legislative experience and then, all of a sudden, they are experts. They know everything. Well I can tell you, I may not be a lawyer, I may not be the Minister of Justice, but I can tell you what the Minister of Justice tried to pull off here last week was an affront to every Nova Scotian and, sooner or later, the message will sink in how arrogant and disrespectful that Minister of Justice has been to the political process.

There is an old saying that says what you say is what you should do, but the government seems to be embarking on a different agenda altogether. Well, I wouldn't be an apologist for that Party and I wouldn't be an apologist for this Party, Mr. Speaker, if I thought they were doing wrong. I would lay my political career on the line any day for that. I did it before and I will do it again. I can tell you, this government is going the same road. It is not easy to say that the well is dry, but let's be fair to the nursing profession.

[Page 6262]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, we have been here for a long time, 24 hour day sittings. It is easy to forget about the broader world out there, but if you can imagine looking down on the world for a second and you zoom in a little bit and you wait until the United States comes into view and then you zoom in just a little bit closer to the State of North Carolina, but you want to go in a little bit further, so in the State of North Carolina, you zoom in on the City of Raleigh, you zoom in until you see a hospital. That hospital is called the Rex Hospital, the Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. You zoom in a little bit more into that hospital to the emergency room, and in that emergency room there are people who are sick and injured and scared, and if you zoom in a little bit more you can see all the people working in that emergency room in the Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina.

If you zoom in a little bit closer to one of the nurses there and look in her eyes you see a 38 year old nurse who has worked in that emergency room for 14 years and that nurse in the emergency room of the Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, is my sister. She has worked there for 14 years. She is a Canadian nurse. She trained in Canada and she is not here. She is there, Mr. Speaker, and she is not coming back. She is not coming back, her family is not coming back, and she is a Canadian nurse.

I spoke to my sister last night and told her what was going on here in Nova Scotia and I asked her about working conditions down there. What is it about the United States, about North Carolina, that attracts nurses from Canada? I asked her about the wage rates. Well she told me what the wage rates are and I am going to tell you what they are, Mr. Speaker. The rate that my sister is now being paid is $25 an hour U.S., after 14 years. But that is not where it stops. If she works on the weekend, she gets an extra $10 over and above that, for a total of $35; if she works on a weekend night, 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m., she gets an extra $15, so now she is working for $40 U.S. per hour; if she works on a weekend evening, she gets an extra $13. So she is working for $38 an hour; and if she works on a weeknight, just any weeknight, it is an extra $5.00, or $30 U.S. an hour.

My sister gets paid $2.00 an hour just to be on call, and if she gets called in at any time of the day or night, she gets an extra $10 an hour on top of all those wages I just talked about. She said but, you know, the main reason that I like working here is not so much the money, although the money is okay, it is the flexibility. She has a tremendous amount of flexibility working in the emergency room were she can, especially as a relatively senior nurse, determine when she works and when she doesn't. She can take long breaks if she wants to. When I called her last night, she was at the beach in North Carolina because, in case all of you haven't noticed over there, Nova Scotia is not the only nice place to live.

[Page 6263]

If the best you can do for our health care professionals is say it is a nice place to live, isn't it, well there are other places that are just as nice. At one end of North Carolina are the Blue Ridge Mountains, and at the other end of North Carolina is the Atlantic Ocean and miles and miles of nice warm beaches. That is where I spoke to my sister last night because she decided that she needed some time at the ocean and she took it because she values the flexibility and the family time that it allows her.

My sister told me last night that of the 40 nurses on the roster of the emergency room of the Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, guess how many are Canadians?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I know it is kind of ironic with the noise outside, but I can't control that. But there is a lot of chatter in the Chamber and I would ask the members to take their conversations outside, if they must. The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor.

MR. STEELE: Of the 40 nurses on the emergency room roster of the Rex Hospital in North Carolina, guess how many are Canadians?

MR. FRANK CORBETT: One.

MR. STEELE: One, says my friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre. No, there are 12. Yes, 12 out of 40 are Canadians, 30 per cent. I asked my sister what people down there think of Canadian nurses, and my sister said they love them. They are well-trained, she said. These are people who are trained in Canada and then go down to the United States. They are well-trained and they are hard-working. These are people, she said, coming largely from the Province of Ontario, which is already that much further ahead of Nova Scotia.

That is the situation, from my sister, the Canadian nurse, in the emergency room of the Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. Now you compare that and say okay, well what exactly is it that our health care professionals are asking for here in Nova Scotia? What are they asking for? Well, I went to the picket line this morning and I fell in step with a number of the very fine health care professionals who are on strike today. It happened to be a group of X-ray technicians from the Halifax Infirmary. I said to them, what is it you are asking for? They thought a bit and they said well, maybe 10 per cent over three years.

Mr. Speaker, I was reading about the 1975 nurses' strike, and it is worth reminding people that that strike settled with a settlement of - get this - 37.5 per cent over two years. That is what the government agreed to in 1975. Do you think that anybody out there, anybody on the picket line today is asking for that? No, they are not. They are not asking for that, they are asking for an increase that would just barely keep up with inflation over the next few years, never mind make up the ground that they have lost over the last 10 years. They are asking for binding arbitration because they don't trust the government; they don't trust it one little bit.

[Page 6264]

What is wrong with binding arbitration? What are you so afraid of? You put your offer on the table and if it is fair the arbitrator will pick it, and if it is not fair the arbitrator won't. The Premier has made it very clear that he is not prepared to go that route because the arbitrator might pick a fair offer, and so the Premier has admitted that his government is not interested in fair offers, he is interested in an offer that he deems acceptable, that he, the Premier, and his Cabinet colleagues deem acceptable.

Mr. Speaker, last night some nurses met with the Minister of Justice. They met with the Minister of Justice in this House and they told him the real facts of the negotiations and the Minister of Justice admitted to them that he did not know, he did not previously know these things that they were telling him. So I am going to tell the House. I am going to tell every member on that side who is not talking amongst themselves - and there are quite a few of them over there doing that - for anybody who cares to open their ears, I am going to tell you what it is that the Minister of Justice said that he didn't know last night. And if the minister didn't know, what makes you think any of you backbenchers over there know?

Here is the truth as it has been told to me by the nurses. The top wage rate currently on offer of 8.5 per cent applies to only a fraction of the nurses working at the QE II Health Sciences Centre. This is the 8.5 per cent that in the government's poll-based advertising would make them the highest-paid nurses in Atlantic Canada for precisely the next four days, until Newfoundland renegotiates its agreement.

Mr. Speaker, now Newfoundland may not literally renegotiate it on June 30th when it expires, but you know that in the normal course it is going to be made retroactive. So the government's best PR line is something that is now true for the next four days, four days these nurses are going to be the highest paid in Atlantic Canada. If you really meant it, if you really meant it you would write into their contract that not only would they be the highest paid, that they would stay the highest paid over the course of the agreement. Now that would be something worth advertising. (Interruptions) That would be something worth advertising.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, of the 2,200 nurses in the NSGEU bargaining unit, guess how many qualified for that 8.5 per cent? Any takers over there? Do any of you know? Do any of you care over there?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member would know that he is to direct his debate through the Speaker and not to other members of the House, please. I would ask the honourable member for Halifax Fairview to keep his debate towards the Speaker, who doesn't answer questions.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor.

[Page 6265]

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if you know, I am wondering if anybody has told you, and I wonder if you know, if you have told any of them. Through you, to the members on that side, I ask, guess how many of the 2,200? Apparently the Minister of Justice didn't know this last night. I think the Minister of Justice knows, and the answer, my good friend here, the member for Cape Breton Centre, who usually has a good grip on reality, says 1,000 out of the 2,200 says qualify for the 8.5 per cent. I am sorry to say that this time my good friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, is just a little bit out of touch with the truth, because the answer is 19. That is 1 more than 18, 1 less than 20, there are 19 people who qualify for that 8.5 per cent that you have spent tens of thousands of dollars advertising to the people of Nova Scotia.

There are 19 out of 2,200. Did you know that? If you do know it, why do you still support this bill? Those people are the clinical nurse specialists, the transplant coordinators and the other people with that level of qualification. Nineteen out of 2,200. The vast majority of the nurses have been offered, at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, 5.5 per cent, which doesn't even keep up with inflation. It won't keep up with inflation over the next three years, and it sure as hell doesn't keep up with the inflation of the last 10 years that their wages have been frozen and rolled back.

It is 5.5 per cent that is on the table, 5.5 per cent. I don't see that in any of your ads, Mr. Premier. Not only that, but there are at least a couple of hundred and maybe more who get even less than that. The public health nurses, the casual nurses have been offered 2 per cent over three years. That is not even enough to keep up with inflation this year, never mind over the next three years, 2 per cent over three years. I don't see that in any of your ads.

The vast majority of these health care professionals, the ones who are walking the picket line today have been offered money that wouldn't even keep up with the rate of inflation. That is what they are asking for. I want to tell the members on that side, through you, Mr. Speaker, something else that they may not know. I haven't seen this before, and I don't know if anybody else has tabled this memo, but I am going to table it now, after I read from it because I only have a single copy at the moment. I just wonder if there is a single member on that side of the House who has been told this. This memo is from Ms. Chris Power, the Vice-President of Health at the Central District Health Authority.

This memo is dated May 30, 2001, and it is addressed to the Board Chairman, the Vice-President, the CDHA Leadership Council, the clinical department heads, the directors of the QE II, the managers of the QE II, and do you know what this memo says? It talks about the operating room summer slowdown, 2001. It is a short memo but I am not going to read it all, I will just read the key phrase, which is this: Please note that the surgical summer slowdown for 2001 will be a reduction of 25 per cent activity beginning Monday, June 11, 2001, through to Monday, September 3, 2001, inclusive. In addition to this 25 per cent reduction, there will be a two-week period of a further reduction of 25 per cent beginning Monday, July 23, 2001, through to Monday, August 6, 2001, inclusive.

[Page 6266]

So for two weeks, a 50 per cent routine, normal summer slowdown of the operating rooms, and for the rest of the summer a routine, normal 25 per cent slowdown, and this government has the nerve to try to tell Nova Scotians that the reason surgeries have been cancelled is because of the health care professionals in these bargaining units. You have the nerve to say that. How dare you? How dare you say that? This is the truth, those surgeries were going to be slowed down and cancelled anyway and you have the nerve to try to tell Nova Scotians that it is the nurses' fault?

In case any of you haven't noticed over there, sometimes these people, the professions that they are in, go by the name of the caring professions. I don't include just the nurses in that, because if there is one thing I have learned through this whole sorry mess, it is that literally thousands of other people do the behind-the-scenes work that is necessary for our health care system to run and our hospitals to run, like the X-ray technicians that I talked to on the picket line in front of the new Halifax Infirmary this morning, the physiotherapists, the occupational therapists - well, you have all heard the list. One of the fellows who appeared before the Law Amendments Committee, who was allowed to appear before the Law Amendments Committee, was the guy who sterilizes all the operating room equipment. How many of that gang over there think about him in their rush to pass Bill No. 68?

Mr. Speaker, earlier I talked about my sister, now I want to talk about my father. My father, much to my chagrin, is a lifelong Conservative, big "C" Conservative, small "c" conservative. Depending on the circumstances, he might bring himself to vote Liberal once in a while. I can say to a certainty that he has never once in his life voted NDP; my father, the Conservative. It is probably his just reward that all of his children, at least those who still live in Canada, though we are now scattered across three provinces, we all vote NDP. That is progress, I guess, of a kind.

On Father's Day I spoke to my father. He is kind of proud that I was elected and that I am standing here. He and my mother, through the miracle of the Internet, really keep very close tabs on what is going on in the Nova Scotia Legislature. I have really been encouraging them to find other hobbies, but they do spend a great deal of time trying to follow what is going on in the Legislature. My father, the lifelong Conservative, said to me, you know, Graham, I really don't think that nurses should be allowed to strike. Okay. That is fine. There are a lot of people who believe that, not just Conservatives.

It is a legitimate question that could have been debated in this House if the government wanted to bring forward, over the last two years, essential services legislation and wanted to debate it. Instead of that, in the midst of collective agreements being bargained, this government decided that it knew best and that come hell or high water Nova Scotians were going to get essential services legislation in the health care sector whether they liked it or not, without any real debate, without any discussion, without any hearings.

[Page 6267]

For God's sake, I am about to travel the province this summer with some of my best friends from the Tory caucus over there to talk about fire safety. We can have a travelling road show from this Legislature, over the summer, with nine MLAs and all the support staff and attendant expense, to talk about fire safety, and we can't have one minute of real debate about essential services. This government decided they knew better. Where is the travelling legislative select committee on essential services? Where is that? We are not going to have one, because the government has decided to legislate.

Mr. Speaker, maybe my father is right and maybe health care professionals shouldn't be allowed to strike, but we should have had a real debate about that and not in the midst of negotiations over the collective agreement. My father went on to say, as I told him what Bill No. 68 does, oh, Graham, that's wrong, that is going too far. I told him that Bill No. 68 allows this government to dictate by Cabinet Order, behind closed doors, in secret, the terms of the collective agreement of any health care worker in Nova Scotia for the next three years. He said, Graham, that's wrong, that's wrong. He said, at least they could have had binding arbitration.

Mr. Speaker, I think it has been pretty obvious that the government has lost a lot of Nova Scotians over Bill No. 68. We, in the NDP, and the people who support the principles that we stand for were never with you on Bill No. 68, and it is very apparent that the Liberal Party and the people who believe what they believe are not with you either, but you have lost the whole Conservative middle as well.

Mr. Premier, when you were out of the House earlier today a 500 name petition, gathered at the New Glasgow flea market, was tabled in this Legislature. Those are your people, Mr. Premier. Those are your people; those are your friends and your neighbours. Those are people in your community who went to a flea market, this wasn't done at a union hall; you can't demonize them as some kind of radical other that is different from the people who supported you, this is a New Glasgow flea market. You can't dismiss them as a special interest group. These are your people, and in the course of one day at a New Glasgow flea market, 500 people said that you are doing the wrong thing. You have lost the whole Conservative middle in Nova Scotia over this bill.

Although I wasn't here at the time, I understand that the member for Cape Breton North stood in this House and said that if 100 per cent of the people in his constituency were opposed to Bill No. 68, he would vote for it anyway. What do you do about that? (Interruptions) My friend, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, says that he is definitely showing he is Cabinet material, if 100 per cent of the people in his constituency tell him he is doing the wrong thing, he will still vote for Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, who exactly does he think he is speaking for? If that member wants to stand in his place right now and interrupt me, through you, and tell this House what his aunt,

[Page 6268]

who is a nurse, told him about Bill No. 68, I will yield the floor to him and let him explain to the House what his aunt told him. That's his family, not my family.

Mr. Speaker, I know that this is falling on deaf ears. I know that later today Bill No. 68, in due course, will pass. So, I have been struggling to know what it is that I could possibly say today. I know that I am not speaking to people who have their ears open or their hearts open to this. One of the members of my caucus said, in the face of this you have to be philosophical. Well, I thought maybe the best thing to do would be to find a poem or something, but it is not, I have something better that I am just about to get to. The one poem that came to me was a poem, a short poem as you can see, called Ozymandias, by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

I want to read it - it is very short - because it reminds me very much of the Premier. I hope, Mr. Premier, that you listen to this poem, if you haven't heard it before. It goes like this:

"OZYMANDIAS

I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal these words appear --

'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away."

[12:30 p.m.]

Mr. Premier, you are in charge. You can turn to your right and your left and you can command a majority of this Legislature and you are. You've told them what to do and if there is anybody who disagrees with you, you have told them to absent themselves from this Legislature and that is what they have done. You are in command of this Legislature and this government, but think on those words of that poem of Ozymandias because one day you will no longer be the Premier. One day your power will pass. What is going to be written on your inscription, Mr. Premier? But that's not the best I could do, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 6269]

Yesterday in the House the member for Kings North, who is an ordained minister, stood up and told the story about King David, the great King of Israel. I have another story about King David that I want to tell to this House because I don't think, with all due respect to the member for Kings North, that that was the most appropriate story from the vast store of that part of the bible that speaks about King David because the member for Kings North talked about the section from 1 Chronicles where King David was given a choice, because of his misdeeds, between war and pestilence and famine.

With all due respect to the member for Kings North, fair and free collective bargaining is not like war or pestilence or famine. Binding arbitration bears not the remotest analogy to war or famine or pestilence or a government that admits that it is really just about money and their agenda. That's not like war or famine or pestilence. Who does the member for Kings North think he is kidding, that he and the other members on that side are heroic figures who have these dreadful choices to choose from when the choices, in fact, Mr. Speaker, are full and fair collective bargaining or if you can't have that binding arbitration, with no strike, or to kowtow to Ozymandias there in the Premier's chair. Those are the choices.

Mr. Speaker, there is another story that has always struck me as very powerful. I don't know why. It is one that I have always remembered and in one of those ironies that has permeated this whole debate since we came here, I asked the library to send me a copy of the bible and the copy of the bible that they sent me is stamped the Premier of Nova Scotia. It was a gift to a past Premier, not this Premier, to a past Premier of Nova Scotia. This bible that I am about to quote from says here, the Premier of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Premier, if you have forgotten this story, I will be glad to send over a copy of that bible. This is a story about David and Bathsheba, and Uriah, Bathsheba's husband. What it says, this is from 2 Samuel 11, it says that David sent Joab and the Israeli army to destroy the Ammonites. They began by laying seeds to the City of Rabbah, but David stayed in Jerusalem and one night he couldn't get to sleep and he went for a stroll on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking her evening bath. He sent to find out who she was and was told that she was Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, and the wife of Uriah. Then David sent for her and when she came, he slept with her and then she returned home. When she found that he had gotten her pregnant, she sent a message to inform him.

So David dispatched a memo to Joab and it said simply, "Send me Uriah, the Hittite." When Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba arrived, King David tried to send him away and Uriah would not because he talked about his duty to the army of Israel and he would not be sent away. So to take up the story again, it says finally the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver.

Mr. Speaker, this is the stunning heart of the story. The letter instructed Joab to put Uriah at the front of the hottest part of the battle and then pull back and leave him there to

[Page 6270]

die. So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the besieged city where he knew that the enemy's best men were fighting and Uriah was killed along with several other Israeli soldiers. When Bathsheba heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. When the period of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her to the palace and she became one of his wives and she gave birth to his son. But the Lord was very displeased with what David had done.

Mr. Speaker, there is enough lesson in there, but there is more to the story. So the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to tell David this story. There were two men in a certain city, one very rich, owning many flocks of sheep and herds of goats, and the other very poor, owning nothing but a little lamb he had managed to buy. It was his children's pet and he fed it from his own plate and let it drink from his own cup and he cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. A guest arrived at the home of the rich man, but instead of killing a lamb from his own flocks for food for the traveller, he took the poor man's lamb and roasted it and served it.

David was furious. I swear by the living God, he vowed, that any man who would do a thing like that should be put to death. He shall repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity. Then Nathan said to David, you are that rich man. The Lord God of Israel says, I made you King of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul. I gave you his palace, his wives and the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah and if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more. Why then have you despised the laws of God and done this horrible deed?

Mr. Speaker, that story when I learned it as a child made a powerful impression on me and it still does because David did an inexcusable thing and he never washed the stain of that sin from his soul. The Lord his God was very displeased with him and said, why have you done this? I have given you everything and still you sent Uriah into battle and you had him killed, a man of honour who would not leave his army, you sent him into battle and you had him killed.

I don't know whether members of this House believe the bible to be literally true, or whether they believe it to be a storehouse of moral stories that we can all learn from, or whether they don't believe it at all, but the reason that I think it is important to tell this story is that there are some things that are inexcusable, but not only that, Mr. Premier, you have the power, you are the king, you are Ozymandias and you have it within your power to do anything that you want to do, but instead you have taken the lamb of the poor man, the only thing he has, and you have killed that lamb.

Instead of taking the riches that are given to you as a Leader of a government, you have chosen to do the most draconian thing that it is possible to do. At every turn where you had a choice in Bill No. 68, you took the hard choice, the hard line, the stubborn line. Instead of bargaining you came to this House and said that the Cabinet can, by order, dictate the terms

[Page 6271]

of an agreement. What an Orwellian phrase: you can order an agreement. Mr. Speaker, instead of binding arbitration, which was possible for you to do, you have outlawed the right to strike until after the next election. As if it wasn't a transparent political move to save the bacon of this government, you have outlawed the right to strike until after the next election. You didn't have to do that.

Then on top of that, Mr. Speaker, you have taken away recourse to the courts. You didn't have to do that. We couldn't find any other piece of legislation of this kind that did that. You had a choice, Mr. Premier, and you made the wrong choice. At every turn when you could have pulled back, when you could have used your power as the Premier, as the king, you made the wrong choice, and the people who are on the line, Mr. Speaker, like the army of Israel, or the people who today are walking the picket line, they are the people who are upholding the honour of this province. They are the caregivers of this province. They are the people who promised the people of Nova Scotia that they would never put a single person in jeopardy even if they have to take job action, and you and your Minister of Health said you didn't believe them. You said you didn't believe them.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke to those people on the picket line today. I asked them what effect this picket line is going to have on the hospital, and do you know what they told me? Not very much because one-half of our colleagues are in that building working, that's what they said. Fifty per cent of their colleagues are in that building today working, providing medical services to the people of Nova Scotia just like they said they would.

That's what they did. They kept their word, and you have the nerve to question them? You have the nerve to say that you don't think they're going to keep their promises? You, the government, who is breaking almost every promise you made in the last election in order to get elected, including putting health care first, including making health care the most urgent priority of your government, including saying that health care would be at the forefront of everything this government does, you said it and, Mr. Premier, you said it and you have the nerve to stand here and say to those workers that you didn't believe that they would provide essential services.

Who do you think you are over there? Who do you think you are? Do you think you're God's gift to government? Do you think that you're better than everybody who has come here before and, not only that, but you're better than your constituents? The member for Cape Breton North says that if 100 per cent of the people who voted for him and even the people who didn't vote for him are against Bill No. 68, he is still going to vote for it. Who do you think you are? What do you think you're doing here? If 100 per cent of the people can be opposed to this and you're going to vote for it anyway, who do you think you are?

[Page 6272]

[12:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I am going to tell another story about my family. I have talked about my sister in the emergency room of the Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. I have talked about my father, the Conservative who believes that this government is doing the wrong thing and now I am going to talk about my son who is without question the most precious thing in my life and I will say by the by that when my son was born in the IWK-Grace Hospital, I could not have asked for better care from the nurses in that hospital, or the public health nurses who helped us afterwards, and all the people who kept that hospital going when my son was being born.

Mr. Speaker, on Mother's Day we decided to go and visit my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law and their two children. I got in the car and my wife was in her garden and she clipped a beautiful flowering iris from our garden. She gave it to my son who is three years old and she said to him, take this and give it to your Aunt Ann. That's what my wife said to my son. My son got in the car and I said to him, hold it carefully, this is fragile. It is really delicate. It is hard to explain that to somebody who is not quite three and he tried. Oh, my gosh, he tried, but in the 10 minute ride to my sister-in-law's house the stem broke. He held it too tight. He didn't let it go. He didn't drop it. He held that beautiful flower and he held it too tight and the stem broke, but that didn't matter because the flower was still there and it was the gift that mattered.

The point of the story, Mr. Speaker, is that your morals and your ethics as members of this House are a fragile thing. They're like a flower and once you bend that flower and once you break the stem, you can never unbreak it. You can't tape it back together. You can't glue it. You can't pretend that it is still whole because when a flower is broken, it is broken.

This government has failed in Bill No. 68 and throughout this sitting in every ethical test that anyone could put to them. They have not followed the basic ethical principle of consistency which is to follow through on what you said you were going to do.

Mr. Premier, when you were out of the House yesterday, I read a long passage from 1994 of what you said in this House when you were facing a government doing something similar - but it wasn't as bad, they didn't go this far - you were completely opposed to it and you said they were doing the wrong thing and you said they weren't listening to Nova Scotians. Well, now, Ozymandias, you are in the Premier's chair and now you're doing exactly the thing that you rallied against when you were on this side of the House. You have failed the basic moral imperative of consistency. There is another basic moral principle of transparency of doing things in the open so that people can see what you're doing because if it is the right thing to do, it will be obvious to people. They will see that it is the right thing to do.

[Page 6273]

There has been no real debate in the whole time we've been in this House. The only time the members on that side got up to exercise their legs and their lungs, in one of those many ironies of this debate, was in order to frustrate debate. They got up in the Committee of the Whole House and talked out the time in order that the members of the Opposition couldn't even lay amendments on the table. They didn't even have the moral fibre to let us put binding arbitration on the table and then vote it down. They spoke in order to frustrate debate.

Mr. Speaker, I said it last night and I am going to say it again, this Legislature has a lot to be sorry for, but one of the jewels of this Legislature is the Law Amendments Committee. There is no other province in Canada that has anything like the Law Amendments Committee and among the many terrible precedents that have been set in your government's pursuit of the almighty dollar is that you have cut off debate in the Law Amendments Committee. You have said that even if Nova Scotians want to be heard, you will not listen to them and now that precedent has been set for all time.

Mr. Speaker, that Premier, one day, is going to be Ozymandias with his statue tumbled on the ground, saying fear me, fear me and all around him is desolation. We don't know what future governments are going to look like. We don't know if they are going to be Liberal Governments or NDP Governments because we haven't earned the right in Nova Scotia to be a government yet and maybe we never will.

Mr. Speaker, you are in government, but you don't know what the future holds. You don't know what kind of autocratic or totalitarian governments we may face in the future and, for all time, in this House, the home of responsible government, you have set the precedent that if a government wants to cut off the Law Amendments Committee, they can. They are going to look back to this debate in 2001 and say, yes, it has been done before so we will do it too. You might be out of that chair, Mr. Premier, in two years or twenty years, it doesn't matter. Sooner or later, that Party is going to be back over here and you have no idea who is going to be looking at you from over there. You have no idea and you have set this precedent in this House that even though hundreds of Nova Scotians wanted to be heard by the government, you would not hear them.

Mr. Speaker, the other moral principle that this government has utterly failed in is reciprocity, which is that they would do what they would have others do unto them - the golden rule. Or as Jesus himself said, the greatest commandment of all is love each other as I have loved you. Do you remember that, all of you who stand up here and say the Lord's Prayer every day? Do you remember that? It is that you have to do what you are prepared to have people do to you and that honourable Government House Leader, when he was on this side of the House, railed against governments that tried to do exactly what he has just done, setting precedents for all time in this House.

[Page 6274]

Mr. Speaker, this is about more than just Bill No. 68 and it is about more than respect for these health care professionals. What the government has done, not just in Bill No. 68, but in the way that it has done it, is that it is threatening democracy in this province. This government has ripped up the Rule Book of this House as if it didn't exist. There is a special circle of legislative hell reserved for Speakers who forget that they are the servants of the whole House, and not servants of the government.

Mr. Speaker, I am, by profession, a lawyer and I believe profoundly in the rule of law. I think I know a thing or two about laws and how they ought to be interpreted. Let me tell you something - you, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker - there is no way in God's green earth that any reasonable person would interpret the Rules of the House the way they were interpreted in this House last night. Because what the rules say is a government can set the hours of the House. Okay, you did it. Congratulations, you did it. You set the hours and you said, we are going to sit 24 hours a day on Opposition Day.

But there is nowhere in the Rule Book that says that you get to decide what Opposition business is and what the rule does say is that there is a maximum of four hours, if there is agreement in the House, that the government can use for government business. That is what the rules say. It says it specifically, and there is nothing in Rule 5C that says otherwise, and there is no reasonable person in any court in Canada who would rule otherwise. For all time in this House, this government has set the precedent that the government can seize control of Opposition Day and, if it wants to, do government business for 20 hours; the first time in Nova Scotia's history. That is why I am standing up, Mr. Speaker, at this time of day, on a Wednesday, Opposition Day, knowing that this bill is going to go through in a few hours because you have subverted the Rules of this House, you have subverted the law. But you know there is no . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, honourable member for Halifax Fairview. You are clearly contesting a decision that was made based on the Rules and Forms of Procedure and it clearly pointed out, notwithstanding the section relative to Wednesday. It is clearly in the rules. I would ask the honourable member to speak to something relevant on Bill No. 68, because limited (Interruptions) Order, please. No debate was taken away from any member opposite, no debate was taken away. The honourable member for Halifax Fairview does have the floor.

MR. STEELE: So here I stand, Mr. Speaker, in the middle of Opposition Day, long past the four hours allowed for government business, and I am speaking to an offensive bill that is going to pass in a few hours. In an earlier opportunity that I had to speak to Bill No. 68, I spoke about what happened in Saskatchewan two years ago, and I referred to the fact that I am not here to apologize for the NDP Government in Saskatchewan, although they did do it very differently, nevertheless they did legislate their striking nurses back to work. I also pointed out to any member on that side of the House who was willing to listen that the Government of Saskatchewan apologized. They apologized, and I read that apology into this

[Page 6275]

record. I said that you, on that side of the House, darn well better get ready to apologize. The Government of Saskatchewan did it. They said they were sorry that they didn't listen, that they were too busy with other things.

Mr. Speaker, I have prepared an apology on behalf of that government. If I could get the attention of the Pages, I have here 31 copies of an apology, which I would like to ask the Page to distribute to the members on that side of the House, one for every member on that side of the House. I am going to read that apology. Now some of you may crumple it up when you get it. I guess the people in the gallery can see what they do with this apology. Some of you may rip it up. Some of you may throw it on the floor. Okay, the honourable Government House Leader just ripped it up, but he is going to need it. I have extra copies here and he is going to need it, whether you need it today or tomorrow or next month or the next time you knock on these people's doors in the election and you say, vote for me, you better have this apology ready.

Here is one for the Table, Mr. Speaker. It is undated, you can fill in the date when you are good and ready, whenever that might be. It is unsigned and there is a space here that says, "Member of the Legislative Assembly", "Member, Government Caucus." So you can fill in your own names in your good time. For those of you who have ripped it up, I have extras. Here is the apology to all of you in the gallery and everybody watching and everybody on the picket line, and this is taken, I might add, almost word for word from the apology the Government of Saskatchewan gave to its health care professionals.

"To Nova Scotia's health care professionals:

Today, we find ourselves in a situation in which nobody wins. How did we come to this point?

The government that I am part of must share a part of the blame. When we took office in 1999, we faced tremendous challenges. Simply put, Nova Scotia was on the verge of bankruptcy. As a government, our attention was focussed on dealing with this crisis.

However, while we were dealing with these vital issues, we made some mistakes.

One mistake was being too busy to really listen, to really hear, all the legitimate concerns facing nurses and other health care workers. Some problems that should have been dealt with promptly were allowed to fester. For this I apologize. Never again will we allow ourselves to get too busy with other vital issues to fail to listen and to respond.

[Page 6276]

One beneficial effect of the events of the past few months is that we've heard you. We have heard Nova Scotia's health care professionals.

Let us get back to resolving the issues facing Nova Scotia's health care professionals, and, together, to work to build a better health care system. A health care system where care providers are treated with dignity and respect.

Yours truly,

Member of the Legislative Assembly

Member, Government Caucus"

[1:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, they are going to need that apology; you are going to need it, Mr. Speaker, because you are a member of that caucus too. I don't know when you are going to need it but you are going to have to use it and it may not be until two years from now when you come knocking on all of our doors, asking for our votes. Maybe it is going to be two years, I don't know, but you are going to need that apology. I think that maybe you will want to slip that in your briefcase or put it in your pocket and get ready to sign it because you are going to need it. You are going to need it because what you are doing here, like the sin of King David, is unforgivable.

My constituents are walking on that picket line. They have come down to this Legislature and they have found a government that is hard of heart, hard of hearing. I asked one of the health care professionals on the line this morning about how it feels to walk a picket line for the first time in her life and she said, it made her feel nauseous, she doesn't want to be there. A couple of days ago I spoke to one of my constituents, Sheila; after a bit of telephone tag we finally connected. She told me about her daughter's last birthday, where she was called in - she wasn't even on call - and she went in anyway because she is a health care professional, she is a member of the caring profession. She told me her daughter cried because it was her daughter's birthday and her mother was at the hospital looking after other people's children.

What is going on here today is a shame; it is a disgrace; it is an embarrassment to every tradition of this House; but more important than that, Mr. Speaker, what is going on here today is about Sheila's daughter who cried because her mother went in to work because she is a nurse.

Over the course of my time here today, I have talked about my sister, the Canadian-trained nurse who works in the emergency room of the Rex Hospital in Raleigh, North

[Page 6277]

Carolina. I have talked about my father; I have talked about my son; I have talked about my sister-in-law; and I have talked about my niece and my nephew, because this bill is about every single one of us. This bill is about our parents, our brothers and sisters, our children, and the people of our community and you, over there, have all forgotten that this bill is about us. Shame on you!

SPEAKER'S RULING: Dispute Between Members

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just before I recognize the honourable Liberal House Leader, I would like to point out that earlier today, the honourable member for Dartmouth East rose on a point of personal privilege. In his comments he stated that the Premier had made some derogatory and offensive statements. The Premier subsequently, by way of a point of order, reputed and disagreed with the charge made by the honourable member for Dartmouth East.

As it is the duty of the Speaker to determine if, in fact, there has been a prima facie case of breach of privilege, I have observed the following: that there are, in fact, no official minutes or record of the alleged conversation between the two honourable members, that the House had recessed for a division vote and that, in fact, there were a number - believe me - of impromptu conversations taking place. Therefore, as Beauchesne outlines in Pages 11 to 13, it is nothing more than a dispute between two honourable members. In fact, no breach of privilege has taken place.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On your ruling, I think your ruling is probably consistent with your other rulings in the past couple of days, including the one on Opposition business. This was not a dispute between two members of the House. This was the Premier deliberately coming over and berating the member for Dartmouth East and saying, it is pay-back time. That is what it was all about, Mr. Speaker. You can cut it any way you want, but that is what happened here.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: I will respect your ruling. However, later, the Premier did repeat some of what he had said to me. In other words, the Speaker had ruled on the behaviour of the Justice Minister as Chairman of Law Amendments. The Premier's comments would indicate both to me personally in the House at the time of the ringing of the bells and later, in Hansard, of which I have a copy, for the Premier the matter is not settled and he does not agree with the ruling of the Speaker. That is my point of privilege and my concern. In fact,

[Page 6278]

he did say - and I have a copy of Hansard - "What I had said to the member is, clearly, that they are reaping what they have sown." That is in Hansard last evening.

So, we have the issue that we, as Opposition members, working with the Rules of the House, being denied the opportunity to make amendments in the Law Amendments Committee, which is very ironic. If a place that you are not allowed to make amendments just happens to be called the Law Amendments Committee, there is some irony in that. But, the point is, that the rationalization of the Premier as to the judgment of the Speaker on that matter is saying, well, we sort of lost that one but we are going to make up on the other. I respect and I am not going to take any length of time of the House today, Mr. Speaker, and I do respect your ruling because it did happen after the bells were ringing and it could well be construed as a dispute between two members. However, the Premier still won't give up on the issue even after he "lost it" and he doesn't want to lose anything more than what he is losing with Bill No. 68 here today.

I thank you for your promptness in your ruling. You had promised you would do it today and you did. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I would say to the honourable member and to all honourable members that the honourable member for Dartmouth East has certainly been around this House longer than most and while it wasn't a point of order, I certainly would agree that the honourable member did bring forward a good point.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill No. 68. It says, An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia. I am sure there are more than 9,000 health care workers in this province. There are many people in the streets around this House of Assembly, many guests in our galleries and the members on this side of the House who certainly believe the title of this bill is misleading.

I want to start by saying to the members across the floor, members of that Tory Government, it is not too late. It is not too late to withdraw Bill No. 68 and it is not too late to kill Bill No. 68 and allow the collective bargaining process to be restored for these health care providers. It is not too late.

I am sure that this past weekend, when the government members returned home for the weekend and probably for the last 13 days since Bill No. 68 was introduced that they have been contacted and they continue to be contacted by people in their riding and people from around this province, because I have and I continue to be contacted by people from around this province.

[Page 6279]

Bill No. 68 is not a done deal yet. There is still some time left. Even though Bill No. 68 is now in its last stage and approaching the end of the debate, the Opposition will continue to speak against Bill No. 68. This Tory Government still has the opportunity to withdraw this bill before it is too late. They are too stubborn.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's polite.

MR. GAUDET: That is polite. At the end of this final debate on Bill No. 68, a recorded vote will be requested later today, some time this afternoon. Then in the end these Tory MLAs will probably vote in support of Bill No. 68. Then Bill No. 68 will become law once it receives Royal Assent from the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. And then what? The Tory Government has won. The nurses and the health care workers have lost and everything will be okay? What will happen next worries me and worries a lot of people in Nova Scotia. What will happen next after Bill No. 68 becomes law? But I will come back to that later, Mr. Speaker.

First I want to say a few words on the Law Amendments Committee process with regard to Bill No. 68. Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, when a bill goes through second reading in this House, the bill is then referred to the Committee on Law Amendments. This is to provide an opportunity to the public who wish to speak, who wish to speak in favour of the bill or who wish to speak against this bill. An invitation is extended to all those who wish to come forward and speak and be heard. We know that approximately 125 people did get that chance to come out and speak on Bill No. 68 at those public hearings. However, we know as well that over 500 people did contact the Legislative Counsel office and some did get a chance to speak and others did not get a chance to speak at these public hearings right here in Halifax. I had the opportunity to sit in at these hearings last Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. I can tell you, no one spoke in favour of Bill No. 68 when I was there.

[1:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, many comments that were made by many of the presenters focused on the need for this Tory Government to withdraw this Bill No. 68 and get back to the collective bargaining process. Many health caregivers, many health care providers that night said Bill No. 68 is undemocratic and unconstitutional. Bill No. 68 is not acceptable. Bill No. 68 is a slap in the face. Bill No. 68 is insulting. Bill No. 68 is detrimental to health care in Nova Scotia. Bill No. 68 shows disrespect. Bill No. 68 is an encouragement for people to vote for a strike. Bill No. 68 is not about public safety. Bill No. 68 will continue to send our graduating nurses to work outside the province. In the end, many people said Bill No. 68 was very upsetting to them.

Mr. Speaker, people in Nova Scotia will remember Bill No. 68 for a long time. Bill No. 68 will remind individuals in this province of many things. I am sure Bill No. 68 will be remembered at the polling stations in the next election. The Premier said he is willing to put

[Page 6280]

his political career on the line, as well as those Tory MLAs are willing to put their future, their political career on the line with this Bill No. 68. Bill No. 68 may not be democratic, but when election time comes, the people of Nova Scotia will have a say. They will let you know, Mr. Premier, and they will let your Tory caucus know that they will have their turn.

Mr. Speaker, a comment that was often heard from the presenters that night was that they never thought they would be appearing at the Law Amendments Committee to speak on a piece of legislation, but with all the frustrations that Bill No. 68 has created and has the potential of bringing to the lives of so many, many people did come forward, but many did not have the opportunity to come forward and speak on this Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, early in this debate we heard the Premier, we heard the Minister of Health, we heard this Tory Government this bill is supposed to protect the health and safety of the people of Nova Scotia. We heard this Tory Government say that they did not trust these nurses and health care providers to provide emergency services in the event of a strike.

Mr. Speaker, according to a new poll by Ipsos-Reid that was done for the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, released yesterday, Nova Scotians - and I will table a copy of that poll at a later stage this afternoon - said that in their opinion, 89 per cent said they trust nurses to provide emergency services in the event of a strike. Maybe this Tory Government does not trust these nurses and other health caregivers, but the vast majority of Nova Scotians do trust them. Many presenters, many, many nurses want to know, where are these nurses that you can't trust, Mr. Premier? They want to know where they are. (Applause)

AN HON. MEMBER: Who are they?

MR. GAUDET: Where are they, Mr. Speaker? These nurses that the Premier and his Cabinet cannot trust, where are they? Because 87 per cent of the people of Nova Scotia who were polled in the last several days by Ipsos-Reid, they discovered that the majority did trust the nurses and the health care providers in this province to deliver emergency health care. Time and time again I heard presenters say, at those public hearings, that these health caregivers are professionals who take their work very seriously. I heard presenters say these health caregivers take great care and pride in their work. I heard presenters say what is holding the health care system together in Nova Scotia is the caring, the commitment, and the dedication of these health caregivers. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, you cannot legislate these values. These dedicated professionals have values which can never be legislated. Mr. Premier, you have worked with these same health professionals and now you are turning your back on them. Why aren't you concerned? Why aren't you listening? Yes, Mr. Premier, you were once a member of that professional team. I must say that these last 13 days with this debate on Bill No. 68 have been enlightening, very enlightening. In hearing and reading many concerns and many stories expressed by this

[Page 6281]

special group of caring people, there is no question why our health care system is able to sustain the disruption that it has over the several weeks and months and probably years.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think any of us ever realized - and I stress ever - what our health care professionals do on a daily basis, what they have achieved and what they stand for. Most of all, on behalf of the members of this House, yes, even including the members on that side of the House, I want to say a special thank you to our health care professionals, health care providers, health caregivers in this province, because they truly and honestly deserve a big thank you. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, these health care professionals who work day in and day out in our health care system deserve a debt of gratitude. They give of themselves in every way possible to achieve the health and safety of all Nova Scotians. How they do it, how they endure the long hours is amazing and beyond my comprehension. But do you know what, they do it. They are doing it day in and day out. They have in their hearts a feeling of commitment, a feeling of caring and a feeling of compassion. It is a dedication that you just cannot instill in someone. These are special people.

Mr. Speaker, this bill could endanger the health and safety of the people of Nova Scotia if it gets through third reading and then becomes law. If this bill goes through, it will be a sad day for Nova Scotia. Our health care providers can just take so much. This Tory Government, this Minister of Health and this Premier are still not getting the message. This Tory Government has wasted almost two years to address the real problem in our health care system, to address the crisis in our health care system. I can tell you, with Bill No. 68, this Tory Government does not inspire confidence. This is the same Party that, two years ago, told Nova Scotia they could fix health care for $46 million. (Interruptions) They made a promise to the people of Nova Scotia two years ago; during the election campaign, they said they could trim $46 million in administration within the Department of Health's budget and fix health care in Nova Scotia. That is what that group over there promised Nova Scotians. They told Nova Scotians they had the quick fix. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, this Tory Government has lost the confidence of the health care providers. They have lost the confidence of everyone involved in the health care system, if Bill No. 68 goes through. That is no joke. Further, the public - we heard it yesterday with this polling that was done by Ipsos-Reid - is losing confidence in this Tory Government, day by day. It is not what the Liberal caucus said, we are just repeating what Nova Scotians are saying. (Interruptions) They are losing control in the Tory Government.

[1:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, if this Bill No. 68 becomes law, it will do serious harm to our health care system in Nova Scotia. I want to make reference to a letter that I received. I had a chance to speak with this nurse, Suzanne MacNeil. She is a registered nurse at the QE II Health

[Page 6282]

Sciences Centre, formerly the VG Hospital, for the past 16 years. She said, the shortage of nurses is now. Passing this bill will ensure that the shortage will only worsen. The fact is this bill should not be passed in order to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, that is what this nurse, with 16 years of experience, working at the VG Hospital says. (Interruptions) She knows first-hand what Bill No. 68 will do if it passes. Make no mistake, the largest single threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians is Bill No. 68. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, with Bill No. 68, this government says we don't want the collective bargaining process to work, we are tired of bargaining, just go back to your workplace and do what we say. Our health care professionals deserve better. More than 9,000 nurses and other health care providers working in hospitals throughout our province deserve a lot better than Bill No. 68. But what did they get? Bill No. 68.

We have heard in the streets around this historical Chamber, we have heard inside this historical Chamber time and time again, let's negotiate, don't dictate. This bill that is before this House was introduced because this Tory Government did not want the nurses and other health care workers to strike. That is what we were told. That is why Bill No. 68 was introduced. This Tory Government told us they wanted to prevent a strike by nurses and health care workers in Nova Scotia. Let's not be fooled, this bill is not just about taking away their right to strike. This bill gives this government unprecedented powers by allowing Cabinet to impose a wage settlement without negotiating with these workers.

Furthermore, if these nurses and health care professionals don't like it, there is nothing they can do. They can't appeal to the courts. Did you know that, Mr. Speaker? Once this bill passes, no order, no regulations made by this Tory Cabinet shall be questioned or reviewed in any court. And you wonder why we are hearing people say let's negotiate, not dictate?

Let's get back to the so-called reason why this bill was introduced. The government wants to prevent a strike. Yesterday, the President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, Joan Jessome, met with the Minister of Health and offered him and his Tory Government a golden opportunity. She said that her members would not strike, would not strike today if his government pulled Bill No. 68 and allow negotiations to continue. Here was an opportunity for this government to prevent a strike today. But do you know what? This Tory Government doesn't have the time to do any more polling with the people of Nova Scotia to see if they would support them to pull Bill No. 68.

Guess what, Mr. Premier? You don't need to bother to do more polling, the polling numbers are already in. A new poll that came out yesterday by IPSOS Reid shows that Nova Scotians believe in terms of a trade-off between the two parties, Nova Scotians were asked overall, who do you think is being more fair and reasonable in this dispute? Three-quarters - 78 per cent - of Nova Scotians that were polled said that the nurses are being more fair and

[Page 6283]

reasonable than this provincial Tory Government. (Applause) The numbers are in. They don't need to do any private polling and have more Cabinet meetings. The numbers are in, Mr. Premier.

The people of Nova Scotia want this Tory Government to treat nurses and other health care professionals fairly and with respect. That is all they are asking for. They are not asking for this government to bring down the hammer with Bill No. 68, or yet just impose a settlement as they see fit. But both parties cannot reach an agreement. These 9,000 or more health caregivers don't deserve to be treated this way.

But what goes around, comes around. Yes, these health care providers will get a chance someday, will get a chance someday to treat these Tory MLAs and other Tory candidates the way that they have been treated through this whole debate, through these negotiations.

We know that over 9,000 health care workers were currently involved with ongoing negotiations with the provincial government, negotiations with the NSGEU and negotiations with the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, but then what happened? This Tory Government decided to hijack these negotiations and introduce Bill No. 68. Mr. Speaker, I am sure you are wondering, all these workers are wondering, and many people in this province are wondering what happened here? Why did the Tory Government decide to hijack these negotiations? And why not let the collective bargaining process work?

What about negotiations? This Tory Government has interfered with this collective bargaining process. This Tory Government has put an end to these negotiations between themselves and the NSGEU and the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union by tabling this bill, giving the Premier and his Cabinet the power to dictate to these workers, and that's wrong. Whatever happened to bargaining in good faith? Why is the government not allowing these negotiations to go to binding arbitration? Can you imagine negotiating with Bill No. 68 hanging over your head? It is like the gun to your head. Let's negotiate.

This bill is all about disrespect for nurses and health care providers in Nova Scotia. Never before has a government shown such little respect for an individual group of professionals. This government has failed to act in good faith, they have failed to negotiate in good faith and they have failed to be honest with the people of Nova Scotia by introducing Bill No. 68. This Tory Government has shown no respect for nurses and health care workers in Nova Scotia.

[1:45 p.m.]

The people of Nova Scotia support nurses and health care professionals, but today they are not supported by this Tory Government. This is a sad day, a black day, in the Province of Nova Scotia. This piece of legislation has to be the most offensive piece of legislation ever tabled in this historical Chamber. (Applause)

[Page 6284]

This bill is eventually going to go through this House, the Tory Government has a majority, they have the numbers on their side, but if this Tory Government is willing to take this action against this special group of people, then you have to ask, who will be next? Who will be next? What is the next group that this Tory Government will take on? Yes, there will be another day.

Nurses and health care workers alike should be very proud of how they have conducted themselves throughout these negotiations and throughout this debate on Bill No. 68. (Applause) Never did nurses or health care professionals abandon their patients throughout these negotiations. Nurses and health care providers will always keep their values of caring, compassion and commitment. But we cannot say the same about this government.

Nova Scotians do not want to see nurses and health care workers strike. Likewise, nurses and health care workers do not want to strike. This Tory Government has gone too far and these employees and their families know this first-hand. If the government thinks for a minute that Bill No. 68 will solve all their problems with our nurses and health care workers, then I can only say good luck to all of them.

There are many problems, many issues and many concerns that this government needs to recognize and address along the way before any agreements can be reached between the parties. This piece of legislation does nothing to address our crisis in health care in Nova Scotia. This bill does nothing to address the long-term crisis in health care. This bill does everything to give this Tory Government extraordinary powers over Nova Scotians. When this bill becomes law, it will effectively take away the right to strike. It will allow Cabinet to impose a settlement without negotiations. It will eliminate the constitutional right of appeal.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I hate to interrupt the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party on his debate, but I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes not to be holding up the props, please.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this bill will eliminate the constitutional right of appeal to the court by the health care workers and this bill will prevent fair collective bargaining by health care workers.

Mr. Speaker, as my time winds down, my greatest wish would be to have more time to speak against this bill. This hour, and all of the hours that the Opposition has stood in this House to state our displeasure with Bill No. 68 have not been enough. Members on this side of the House, I want to acknowledge throughout this debate that my colleagues in the Official Opposition Party - the NDP members - and members of our Liberal caucus have spoken with a common voice in representing the voice of the people of Nova Scotia with regard to Bill No. 68. (Applause)

[Page 6285]

I want to thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party and members of his caucus who have worked together with us in representing the views of many people throughout this province, views of nurses, views of other health care providers in this province, but unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, this government is too stubborn to hear the voices coming from this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, there are not enough hours in a day to try to convince this stubborn government how wrong they are. There are not enough hours to share with this government the compassion health care workers take to their workplace every day, not enough hours to relay the displeasure the people of Nova Scotia have for this bill. Bill No. 68 is just plain wrong. In a couple of hours this government will stand up and claim that they are victorious; they will say they have won; they will go to some secret hiding place and celebrate. Health care workers won't be celebrating; members on this side of the House will not be celebrating; and Nova Scotians will not be celebrating. Why? Plain and simple - there is nothing here to celebrate.

Mr. Speaker, I have spent days and days trying to think why a government would introduce such a bad piece of legislation. I tried to piece together the maze of thoughts that were running through their minds. First they had a poll on May 18th that yielded results that said this government needed to do something about legislating nurses and other health care workers back to work. So this Cabinet asked, what can we do to ensure that when we bring in legislation we can justify it? So they met for three days in a row and then they came up with the perfect solution - Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier's incredible ability to rationalize, allow them to convince themselves - no one else, to convince themselves - that if they created such a bad piece of legislation, chaos in the health care system would occur and they would justify their poll results. This is very sad. This Tory Government created a self-fulfilling prophesy in the form of Bill No. 68. I wonder if Cabinet ever thought beyond what will happen once this bill passes? I wonder if they ever thought about what will happen tomorrow?

Mr. Speaker, maybe the health care workers will return to their workplace, and I stress maybe, but how will they feel if and when they go to their place of work, how will they feel? How will they perform knowing that their employer, this Tory Government, does not value, does not respect their rights and does not value and respect what they do each and every day? Has government ever for one moment put themselves in the health care workers' shoes? I want to issue a warning to this government. The health care system in Nova Scotia will never be the same once this bill goes through. Employee/employer relations are ruined forever with the upcoming passage of Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, it amazes me that this Minister of Health and this Premier feel that tomorrow everything will be just fine. Tomorrow marks just the beginning of many challenges. There will be challenges to retain the excellent health care workforce we have

[Page 6286]

currently working in our province. There will be challenges to recruit new workers to assist those presently in our health care system. This government's narrow-minded focus of fixing the problem in the short term has and will create a long-term crisis.

Mr. Speaker, in all my years as a legislator I would have to say this has to be the darkest day in the history of the Province of Nova Scotia. The damage that this bill will inflict on the health care system and the precedents of this House will be far-reaching. I will never forget. Health care workers will not forget and the people of Nova Scotia will not forget. This government does have one more chance, one more chance. They can vote no on Bill No. 68. They can do what every reasonable Nova Scotian has been asking. They can kill Bill No. 68. Then, tomorrow, they can get back to the negotiating table and reach a true collective agreement. They can do that and after that they can begin - I don't know where to start, but they can begin - the healing process that is so desperately needed to fix the health care system in Nova Scotia. They have one more chance, one more chance.

[2:00 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Today is it.

MR. GAUDET: And today is it. There is not a tomorrow in this game.

AN HON. MEMBER: In a little over an hour they can do it.

MR. GAUDET: There is not going to be a tomorrow. Mr. Speaker, I said earlier that the Premier said he is willing to put his political future on the line.

AN HON. MEMBER: He doesn't have one to put on the line.

MR. GAUDET: Well, here is an opportunity for all Tory members of the government to rethink in these last few hours before a final vote is recorded on Bill No. 68. Mr. Speaker, I ask every backbencher on the government side to vote with their hearts, to vote how constituents would want them to vote. There is a golden opportunity that is before this government, the clock is ticking, we're down to probably less than a couple of hours before this very important vote in the history of this province is taken on the floor of this House. So I hope that members on the government benches will vote on Bill No. 68 with their hearts.

Mr. Speaker, I have said this before and I will say it again for the last time, it is not too late. There is still some time before Bill No. 68 is voted on in third and final reading. Then it will be too late because Bill No. 68 will become law after it receives Royal Assent from the Lieutenant Governor of this province and then tomorrow I honestly don't know where the Minister of Health, where the Premier will start. This bill is not just about taking the right to strike from these nurses and these health care workers. This bill is about a lot more than preventing these individuals from striking.

[Page 6287]

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the President of the NSGEU made an offer to this Tory Government, provided an offer to the Minister of Health to withdraw Bill No. 68 and they would not have gone on the picket line at 6:00 a.m. this morning. So this Tory Government tried to lead us to believe that Bill No. 68 was to prevent them from walking out. Well, President Joan Jessome called their bluff, provided them with an opportunity, but in the end it didn't matter.

It did not matter what Joan Jessome, what the more than 9,000 nurses and other health care professionals provided to this Tory Government. This Tory Government had a set agenda with Bill No. 68. It wasn't about preventing these workers from striking. It was about allowing this Premier and this Cabinet to have control, to have the power to impose a settlement upon these workers and, furthermore, this bill will not allow these workers to challenge, to appeal the final verdict.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not much democracy there. A lot of fascism though.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: No democracy.

MR. GAUDET: So, Mr. Speaker, while the Premier may view his actions and the behaviour of his Cabinet as wise and necessary, believe me, all of their tactics will come back to haunt them. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I will just begin by congratulating the Leader of the Liberal Party on an excellent speech. (Applause)

This House and this government are standing on the threshold of an historic decision. Bill No. 68 is not just another piece of legislation. In the government's own words, it is unprecedented, a piece of legislation without precedent in modern Canadian history. The Tory Government wants this Legislature to give to it unlimited authority to strip away the basic democratic rights of health care workers in this province with one stroke of a pen.

I hope that each member of the House is searching her or his conscience about the vote that is going to take place. I am very proud of my NDP colleagues and I am very proud of the members of the Liberal caucus who stood with us on this shoulder to shoulder. (Applause) I am happy with the quiet encouragement that we heard from Progressive Conservative MLAs and from ministers. We took every opportunity to give public debate a chance, to give the olive branches a chance by slowing down the 24 hour legislative ramrod as much as we could. We gave health care workers and Nova Scotians a voice. Mr. Speaker, that is why we are here. (Applause) I am so glad that we never wavered in doing our duty in this House.

[Page 6288]

It is typical of this entire debate and of the government's approach to Bill No. 68 that a government supporter has been trying to blockade and swamp the website where individual Nova Scotians can cast their vote on Bill No. 68. The Progressive Conservative Government is appalled when they see an act of democracy take place. They have forgotten that since Nova Scotia gained responsible government in this House in 1838, the House of Assembly has been the people's means of preventing tyranny.

With responsible government, Nova Scotians gained the right of elected representatives to question the government, the right of MLAs to hold the government accountable, the right of elected representatives to give voice to people's concerns, a right, Mr. Speaker, to delay legislation so that people's voices can be heard and the right of every member elected to this House to seek improvements in legislation so that it better reflects the wishes of Nova Scotians. (Applause)

The essence of responsible government is sober, second thought and thorough debate for government proposals, yet this government claims that necessity requires approval of Bill No. 68 on a timetable fixed by the government, a necessity they say excuses all excesses. The Premier calls it stubbornness. In fact, he seems to pride himself on being stubborn. If you are to take him at his word, as they reported in the media reports, pride, I guess, in denying the basic democratic rights of health care workers, denying the right to speak, denying the right to free collective bargaining, denying the right to strike, denying even their right to seek justice in the courts of our province. (Applause)

He seems to take pride in driving skilled health care workers from this province, pride in undermining the positive working environment that is essential to our health care system, pride in betraying voters who believed him when he said that he would not cut health care to fit an arbitrary budget, pride in breaking the promise that health care would be his first priority and that he would fix it - things to be proud of, indeed.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you and everybody in the gallery knows what they say about pride - it usually comes before a fall. The government pleads that their legislation is necessary. I don't need to answer the government's case of necessity directly because some of the greatest architects of democratic government and freedom can answer it for me because they, too, faced rulers who claimed that necessity justified extreme measures. John Milton, who learned a bitter lesson from his support of a dictatorial government, wrote in Paradise Lost about Cromwell. He said, " . . . with necessitie, The Tyrants plea, excus'd his devilish deeds."

William Pitt, the Younger in the British House of Commons, said that necessity is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. William Lloyd Garrison, an American abolitionist from Newburyport, Massachusetts, who was campaigning against slavery at the very same time that Nova Scotians were fighting for responsible government, had this to say:

[Page 6289]

that with reasonable men, I will reason, with humane men, I will plead, but to tyrants, I give no quarter nor waste arguments on them that will certainly be lost.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that there are reasonable members on the government side of the House. There are humane members on the government side. So although the Premier and some of his Cabinet colleagues have made the argument of tyrants, although they have used the tyrant's plea to try to excuse their behaviour, I intend to speak to the reasonable and humane members and the sentiments that exist within the Conservative caucus.

[2:15 p.m.]

Now I don't know who among the Conservative MLAs is still uncertain. I don't know who is trying to decide whether to represent their constituents by absenting themselves or by voting against the bill instead, Mr. Speaker, of obeying the Premier's commands. I don't know which ministers are already planning an exit strategy that consists of walking away from Bill No. 68 the moment it is approved, rather than continuing down the path of tyranny and dictatorship by proclaiming this bill and using its full force against nurses and health care workers. Therefore, I will use reason and humanity to make the case for the people, against the Hamm Government in the matter of Bill No. 68. (Applause)

Let's look, Mr. Speaker, at the contents of the bill. Let's analyze what it means. Let's recognize what events have already been caused by Bill No. 68. Let's discuss what Bill No. 68 means to health care providers and let's talk about where we go from here. This bill overrides the Trade Union Act, a law that is almost entirely the product of decades of labour/management co-operation to ensure positive labour/management relations in Nova Scotia. It overrides a system that has worked well for decades, a system that has fostered successful negotiation until Don Cameron and John Savage and John Hamm got the bright idea of interfering with the system of free collective bargaining.

This bill singles out nurses and health care workers who were in conciliation and mediation when the bill was introduced. It makes them subject to arbitrary Cabinet proclamation of the bill to one or more of those groups of workers. Mr. Speaker, their sin was to exercise their democratic right to vote on a proposed collective agreement. Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a string of Nova Scotia Governments who are confounded and confused by the exercise of democratic rights.

This bill goes on to catch every other group of hospital employees, even those who have contracts that run to the year 2002. It outlaws strikes by all those it covers. It purports to halt any legal strike underway when the bill is proclaimed and those bans run until April 2004, not coincidentally, Mr. Speaker, when this government's five year mandate will be coming to an end. Despite the Premier's late night talk about replacing Bill No. 68 a few months from now, the government did nothing to limit the scope of this bill. It doesn't expire at the end of the year, and it is not restricted in any way. Not only does the bill command

[Page 6290]

unions, employee representatives, and health care workers not to strike or keep striking, it dictates that unions shall ensure that the employees immediately continue or resume their duties. It orders unions to refrain from any conduct that may encourage employees not to resume their duties, no citizen is to interfere or to try to interfere with these draconian measures even though employees' duties are not defined by the bill.

Mr. Speaker, it is very instructive to note that the government leaked part of its May polling, a poll that was done to prepare for this ill-conceived legislation; they didn't leak the poll results that dealt with the right to strike. The Premier speaks about the right to strike as if it was some kind of ungodly and unnatural act. It is treated like the crime of high treason in Bill No. 68. Yet the Premier knew, and his colleagues knew, that even in the Tory heartland of rural Nova Scotia that most people believe that nurses should have the right to strike, the same as any other worker. They knew that support for taking the right to strike away from nurses and other health care providers was only 30 per cent according to their own poll, with the built-in government bias. That is an even smaller minority than the Conservative vote in the last election.

Mr. Speaker, the "heart of darkness" in this bill is contained in Section 6. It is the power of the Cabinet to, at its own private discretion, impose all or any part of the employment contract covering some or all hospital workers. There is no limit to the power. It could even be used to change job descriptions; it could impose more mandatory overtime; it could merge bargaining units; it could override workers' right to choose their own union. Those Cabinet dictates can have effect until the end of the Hamm mandate.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame. Shame.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, in case there is any doubt about whether or not the government could have chosen negotiation, the bill says that if there is a conflict between a Cabinet order made pursuant to Section 6 and a collective agreement, the order of Cabinet overrides the collective agreement. Almost as an afterthought, Clause 8 freezes all existing collective agreements unless or until the Cabinet imposes its will. The bill makes it a criminal offence to engage in the speech and behaviour that it has banned. Those crimes include the offence of negotiating a collective agreement that contradicts the Cabinet order. Workers who cannot get a fair wage offer from the government are threatened with fines of $2,000 and another $500 a day each day or part of a day during which the worker dares to defy this legislation.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sounds fascist to me. (Interruptions)

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Shame on you.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, then, as if they have not gone far enough already, with the power grab that this bill represents, the Cabinet gains the power to enact regulations

[Page 6291]

respecting any matter or thing necessary to carry out, effectively, the intent and purpose of the Act, just in case they forgot anything. Can you imagine the breadth and scope of the regulations that are possible? This bill defies Canadians' constitutional rights to justice before the courts by declaring that no proceeding shall be taken or order made in any court to question, review, prohibit or quash any order or regulation made by the Governor in Council pursuant to this Act. It is astounding.

Mr. Speaker, if any health care workers dare to exercise their legal right to strike, the government is even trying to take away the right of recourse to the courts. I want to dwell on this for just a moment. I want to dwell on it because the members on this side of the House, as well as the members on that side of the House, as well as the people in the gallery, we are all the rightful heirs of Joseph Howe. There is a dual course of lineage.

First, as citizens of the province we are the beneficiaries of his struggle for freedom of the press, the freedom to speak and to publish opinions, ideas and positions that are contrary to that of the government. He won those freedoms in a court of law, only a few feet from this Chamber, where he stood up to the government and the dictates of the day. Second, we are the heirs of the parliamentary tradition that emanates from the debates on Confederation, which guaranteed certain rights as necessarily incidental to citizenry. Out of those discussions around Confederation came the British North America Act of 1867, and a series of Acts leading up to the Constitution Act of 1982.

I want to remind the members opposite of the words of the Constitution and the words of our Charter, Section 15 says, "Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law . . ." (Applause) I would like to draw your attention to Section 96 of the British North America Act that speaks about superior and county courts in each province. This section establishes the jurisdiction of the courts, this cannot be amended except in accordance with the provisions set out in the Constitution Act. The Charter and Section 96 make the legacy of Joseph Howe part of the supreme law of our land.

I want you to compare that section of the Constitution and that section of the Charter, just for a moment. In your mind, think about it as I read Clause 13 of Bill No. 68. Clause 13 reads, "No order or regulation made by the Governor in Council pursuant to this Act shall be questioned or reviewed in any court and no proceedings shall be taken or order made in any court to question, review, prohibit or quash any order or regulation made by the Governor in Council pursuant to this Act." The contrast is stark. The comparison is replete with contradiction.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, fortunately, Clause 13 cannot override the Constitution, as much as this government might like to. This provision will fail and the legacy of this House will be

[Page 6292]

upheld. No government, no matter how dictatorial, can smother the life out of the Constitution with a single act, no government. The government's relentless pursuit of Bill No. 68 has been disastrous. It was premature, gratuitously insulting and far more extreme than circumstances could ever justify. Bill No. 68 has inflamed labour relations in the health care system; Bill No. 68 has made it far more difficult to establish the trust, respect and positive environment that is required to fix our health care system and to improve the health of Nova Scotians; Bill No. 68 has undermined Nova Scotians' confidence in the public institutions of our province. No political Party can take any pleasure from the corrosive effects of Bill No. 68. The Conservatives are digging a deeper hole for whichever government follows them into office.

Mr. Speaker, they don't have to listen to those of us on this side of the House, because when The Chronicle-Herald describes this as a government that is obsessed with ill-conceived legislation, you know that the wheels have truly come off the Tory machine. The poll that was commissioned in mid-May by the Planning and Priorities Committee of Cabinet show that before monetary issues were even on the table, before any agreement had been submitted for a vote by health care providers, the government was preparing a communications plan on Bill No. 68. This government was bargaining in bad faith right from day one. They were cooking up excuses to try to justify Bill No. 68, a course of action that they had chosen long before they began the charade of emergency Cabinet meetings. I am sure you can remember them. They would trot into the Cabinet Room and wring their hands and come out and say we are going to have to do something to ensure that essential services are maintained.

We know now, Mr. Speaker, that that was a complete and utter sham. It was a charade by the members of the Cabinet. They had all the time in the world to introduce Bill No. 68 in May. They could have introduced it in May and they would have given an opportunity to all of the citizens of this province who wished to have an opportunity for full debate on Bill No. 68, and not just on Bill No. 68, particularly, but what Bill No. 68 means.

Instead, this government chose to turn up the heat. They chose, instead, to calculate coldly the number of days that were going to be required before a strike could be held. They chose to introduce the bill that would bring this Legislature into sitting 24 hours a day. They chose to have their ministers get up and speak only in the dead of night when no one was listening, or at least they thought no one would be listening because the reality is that the people here were paying attention. They chose, Mr. Speaker, to ruthlessly cut off debate in the Law Amendments Committee. They chose to deny the people of this province the right to comment on and to try to improve this legislation because they wanted to make sure that they would have this bill enacted before a legal strike was possible.

So I ask you, Mr. Speaker, were the Conservative backbenchers in on this plan? Did everyone in Cabinet know what the real game plan was or did a small inner circle call all the shots? Did they call all the shots and expect the blind allegiance of all of the members of the

[Page 6293]

backbench, whether they were from the Valley or from Cape Breton or from the other parts of rural Nova Scotia, no matter what chair they inhabited on that side of the aisle? Did they simply expect blind allegiance from the caucus and from the Party? Well, I want you to know, it is a roll of the dice worthy of Brian Mulroney. Brian Mulroney believed in bold steps, whether or not the public was with him. He didn't care that most Canadians voted against free trade or that his government won power with just 40 per cent of the vote, members opposite know just how successful the approach proved to be for the Mulroney Tories. I can only be amazed to see this Conservative Government taking the same arrogant, scornful approach that typified the Mulroney Government.

Mr. Speaker, so thanks to the government's own clumsy leaking of its May poll, we know that Bill No. 68 was conceived as an act of deception, a cloak-and-dagger operation aimed at health care providers who enjoy the trust and respect of Nova Scotians. (Applause) They hoped that with the poll, the government could justify its claims that public safety was endangered because essential services would not be protected. But you know, the truth has a way, it comes out and makes itself known. The truth came out here by early May; at the very same time the plan for Bill No. 68 was being hatched, essential services had been assured to the satisfaction of the district health authorities. Should anyone think that the government really cares about the loss of hospital services or the cancellation of surgeries, let me remind you that this government has shut down 162 acute care beds across this province.

Mr. Speaker, they cut 62 acute care beds after they promised in the election of 1999 that they would provide more hospital beds, not less. Let me remind you and let me remind the government that in March of this year, more than 300 elective surgeries were cancelled at the QE II. Why were they cancelled, Mr. Speaker? They were cancelled for budgetary reasons. This government treated those cancellations like business as usual.

Mr. Speaker, once the draconian nature of the bill was public, the Premier had to explain why binding arbitration was not being offered or provided to settle the labour disputes in health care. For once, the Premier had to be forthright. He claimed that the government could not afford arbitration. You see, the greatest fear of the Premier and of the government is that they will have to pay a fair wage to Nova Scotian nurses and health care providers. It is their greatest fear. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, his nightmare is that an arbitrator will order that these dedicated Nova Scotians are paid what they are worth. We know what the government's game is. They are hiding their revenue. They're low-balling economic and revenue forecasts so that they can cry poor mouth and try to put a gloss on budget results that are better than those that were predicted. They have cranked up senior bureaucrats' salaries higher and faster than any other government that came before them. Now they think they can scrimp and save on the backs of the health care workers.

[Page 6294]

Mr. Speaker, I have heard from Nova Scotians who believe that this government, and I know that this is hard to believe, but I have heard from Nova Scotians who even believe that this government would secretly welcome a new round of nursing resignations - the worse the shortage is of other skilled health care providers, it would look to these Tories like the perfect excuse to shut more hospital beds, cancel more surgeries and force more Nova Scotians to rely on private health care. We are not fooled. I have a message for this government, Bill No. 68 has made it absolutely clear that it is this Conservative Government that carries the primary responsibility for nursing shortages and for the other shortages that are causing the further deterioration of the health care system.

It was they, Mr. Speaker, that promised to fix health care as their number one priority. They promised to end what they described as the critical shortage of nurses as the first step to fix health care. Yet, when nurses dare ask for a fair wage at the bargaining table, when they ask for working conditions that would truly address the shortage, this government's answer is Bill No. 68. They will spend nearly $6 billion in health care over the next three years of the proposed collective agreements. Yet, they say that a 1 per cent increase in costs to address the concerns of health care workers is too much. This government would rather cause the untold harm of Bill No. 68 than to try to meet the health care workers halfway at the bargaining table.

They boast, Mr. Speaker, about a nursing strategy, but the last and least item in that strategy is the one called workforce development and utilization. They are spending exactly $300,000, if they keep their promise to improve staffing and deployment to try to take some of the pressures off of Nova Scotia nurses. No wonder that nurses decided that they were going to have to deal with working conditions at the bargaining table. This government is sticking so inflexibly to the course of action they mapped out in the Hamm bunker in May, that the government has rejected every olive branch, every one that was offered over the course of the debate on Bill No. 68, they would rather insult and enrage the dedicated health care providers by expressing a baseless lack of confidence in those workers' commitment to provide emergency service and much more.

They turned down a 30 day cooling off period, which would not have lost them a single day on their eventual legislative timetable. They turned down the offer Joan Jessome of the NSGEU made in this House on Tuesday to suspend the strike if the government would kill the bill and go back to free collective bargaining. Instead, Mr. Speaker, they escalated their threat to Nova Scotians' rights with midnight musings about taking the right to strike away from even more workers. When the NSGEU offered to delay the health care strike deadline for every additional day the Law Amendments Committee's hearings were going to be heard, this government never even bothered to reply directly to the NSGEU or try to make a deal that would give them more time to negotiate. They publicly rejected the offer and insisted that the June 27th strike deadline go ahead and they cut off more than 300 Nova Scotians who wanted to be heard. This government had the choice to delay and possibly avoid the

[Page 6295]

strike, but the price for them was too high. The government would have to listen to the people of Nova Scotia and that they will not do.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier and his entire government have steadfastly refused to listen. They have refused to hear what workers are telling them. They seem to think it is all about making people listen to them. They seem to think that if they just get a big enough sound system, a big enough club to get people's attention, that Nova Scotians will behave like Victorian children and be seen and not heard. The day that justice took a break struck a chord because it was so typical of the unfair and obsessive attitude that this government has adopted, pursuant to Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, Baker breaks may one day appear in Nova Scotia dictionaries of slang, but the women who were in the Red Room that day were not about to have one more man turn his back on them and walk away. (Applause) You can't silence people; thousands who have turned out to anti-Bill No. 68 rallies around the province, who have written to their local newspapers, who have phoned their MLAs with one message - kill Bill No. 68. Thousands have signed petitions. The government cannot keep the voice of the people out of the Chamber, try as they might.

Premier Hamm, you have forgotten one of the most important rules - democratic government depends on the consent of the governed. The Premier has a different idea. He says it is his way or the highway. That is wrong, it is fundamentally undemocratic. Nova Scotians have learned just how little they matter to this Premier and to this government. Polls are not infallible - far from it. When you look at the numbers of the Ipsos-Reid poll that was conducted this weekend, even the government has to recognize that most of its own supporters are not backing Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, John Savage must be feeling pretty good today. Until Bill No. 68, he may have felt that no other Premier in history would ever be so out of touch with Nova Scotians, that no other Premier would ever become so at odds with the citizens of this province. But this Premier is going for the brass ring. This Premier is making the arrogance of the Savage years look like a picnic. With Bill No. 68, this Premier is going after the single most important responsibility of any provincial governments - health care. He is shaping and creating his legacy and putting his mark on his number one priority. Bill No. 68 could well be the definitive moment in the history of the Hamm Government. The moment of truth. The test of the government's ability to listen. The test of its wisdom. The test of its careful management of public trust.

Nova Scotians understand the erosion of health care that takes place under a certain kind of government. They know that when a government does not place the highest priority on public health that trouble inevitably ensues. This week, the people of this country had an

[Page 6296]

opportunity to hear the chilling evidence of the former chief medical officer from the Province of Ontario. That dedicated doctor described the deep concerns about the decisions of the Harris Conservative Government to withdraw from public health protection and to make public health a municipal and private-for-profit responsibility. The chief medical officer approached Premier Harris and the Premier turned his back on those concerns. The Conservative Premier turned his back on public health. The medical officer, you may recall, resigned, and three years later seven people died drinking from water in Walkerton. That is the legacy of a Conservative Government that decided to turn its back on public health. (Applause)

Sadly, what Nova Scotians see is a Premier and a Conservative Government who find they have no friends, so they are picking enemies. They tried to pick a fight with Ottawa, they tried to pick a fight with working people, they tried to pick a fight with the former Liberal Government, they try to pick a fight with anyone who they hope can be painted as even worse than themselves. This government should wind down the enemy squad. With Bill No. 68, Nova Scotians have found an enemy and it is the government who has pursued with reckless, ruthless and destructive course of action.

The voices that ring true and the voices that matter most are those of the health care providers themselves. It is impossible to read into the record all of the heartfelt letters and messages that we have received from every corner of the Province of Nova Scotia, but I think it is my obligation, as the last speaker on Bill No. 68, to share my time at the conclusion of this debate with nurses and other workers. I will read from a couple of letters that I and other MLAs have received to try one more time to penetrate the stubborn and rigid position of the government opposite. (Applause)

Tina Delaplante wrote about a day in the trenches. She says: I am a staff nurse at the QE II Hospital and I work on a heavy teaching floor, 4.1. I am writing this letter in the hopes that you might understand what I do and have to deal with in the run of a day. Our day usually begins with discharge inquiries. Once these are confirmed, the war begins. The war consists of phone tag and intimidation as one service tries to do their best by their patients. The emerg department is trying to get you to take one of its patients, after all, they have only been there for 26 hours. They want you to take that patient so that they might address the people who have also been waiting hours to be seen. On the floor, we are trying to get all the home supports in place before we send our patient home or we have also to do teaching or we are simply waiting for another bed to open so that we can send our patient along. Our beds are never empty for long and it seems to be that they are sicker when they are finally admitted to hospital. This winter alone, there were numerous admissions of younger people between the ages of 25 and 40 who were intubated and on ventilators because of pneumonia and what surprised me the most is that they were there because they had been seen in the emergency department twice and had been sent home because there were no beds. Our health care system is indeed ill if it is more worried about the bottom line than the lives of individuals. She ends: I have been working for 15 years as a nurse.

[Page 6297]

Another letter, that struck home with many of us because it echoes the sentiments of so many nurses and health care workers, came from Registered Nurse Christine Huffman. I won't read it all, but I want to share a few of her words. She says: Due to health care cutbacks, we are now functioning with fewer and fewer resources. The latest decision to revoke our right to bargain for a new contract, for me, is the final proverbial straw. As a health care professional, I believe in expanding my knowledge and skill. Nurses have always been skilled in adapting to the new and ever-changing world of health care. It seems to me, however, that we have come to a complete standstill. There is virtually no support for those of us who wish to continue and advance ourselves professionally. This leaves me with a very difficult and painful decision to make. You see, I am a proud Maritimer. I love the people here, I love the clean air, I love the sea, I love my family and my friends, but I wish to advance professionally. However, I have no choice but to leave. So, Mr. Hamm, Mr. Muir and anyone else who is concerned, this is my resignation. I have chosen to take a position in the United States.

Mr. Speaker, two other health care providers spoke out this morning - Dr. Shelagh Leahey, Chief of Staff at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital and Dr. Brian Steeves, Chief of Staff at St. Martha's Regional Hospital. They spoke eloquently about how Bill No. 68 had left nurses feeling hurt, angry and frustrated. Nurses who shared the increased workload without complaint. Nurses who found themselves forced to work more and more overtime

and who had to watch patients turned away because beds were closed and nurses were laid off; nurses who found that their own government and that their own Premier, a medical doctor, had expressed and demonstrated such a profound lack of trust in the professional commitment of nurses and other health care providers to the health and safety of their patients.

[3:00 p.m.]

I say here, as thousands of front-line health care workers have said, how dare he question their professional commitment? How dare he take it upon himself to judge them after all they have sacrificed and after all they have done? Dr. Steeves, who made it very clear that he is a Conservative stalwart and a personal supporter of the Premier, summed it all up in one word, paternalism. Where do we go? The legislation does not contain or reshape the working environment of our hospitals. The government cannot bend free men and women to their will, this government cannot make nurses and other health care workers into the servants of the State who meekly obey.

Bill No. 68 represents a fundamental attack on Nova Scotians' health care by driving skilled workers from the province and further undermining the health care system. Every Nova Scotian who treasures our health care system will have to rally against this bill and this government to build a better choice and a future to believe in. (Applause)

[Page 6298]

I want to make it clear that in the view of our Party, this and other legislation denying the right to strike and the right to free collective bargaining for the health care sector and other groups of Nova Scotians, imposed on them against their will, has no rightful place among the laws of Nova Scotia. (Applause) New Democrats and a future NDP Government would, in consultation with those workers, repeal any such legislation and restore workers' democratic rights. (Applause)

Bill No. 68 may pass, but a day will come when government again meets health care workers as equals at the bargaining table, to do the hard work of negotiating terms of employment and other collective bargaining issues to build a long-lasting relationship based on trust, based on respect and based on positive labour management relations.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you I, of course, hope that it will be an NDP Government, but if I am wrong, no matter who is in power, Bill No. 68 is unsustainable because it is unconscionable. (Applause) I want to affirm the New Democrat Party's commitment to ensuring a sustainable health care system that rests on the foundation of a human resources strategy of respect for health care workers and providers, investment and careful management. The NDP will keep working with health care providers, regardless of the fate of Bill No. 68 to ensure a positive and forward-looking choice instead of the inflammatory and negative approach of Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, it is in your hands, as the government members, it is in your hands more than ours. This is where the final verdict will rest. It is your initiative, it is yours to support or deny, it is yours to explain and explore. On your shoulders rests the health of our democracy. You cannot strangle the exercise of liberty with laws. You cannot frustrate the will of people with court orders and the constabulary. You cannot break the people's will with decrees and dictates. (Applause) I say that knowing full well that there is no certainty in democracy because democracy is about choices. Mr. Speaker, we're winding off and I guess there are two minutes left in debate on this bill.

Mr. Speaker, many people, including people in political life - and I think this is true at this particular moment because what we may be left here with is philosophy - have found inspiration in the words written by Tennyson, words that captured the spirit of what we must do to go forward. This quotation that I am going to read was a favourite of John F. Kennedy's. It comes from a poem that inspired Tommy Douglas to write the words Courage friends. It is not too late to build a better world. I want to leave it with you all while you're thinking about your vote to come in a short time. Mr. Speaker, "I am part of all that I have met . . . Tho' much is taken, much abides . . . that which we are, we are . . . One equal temper of heroic hearts . . . strong in will . . . To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If I recognize the minister, it will be to close the debate.

[Page 6299]

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, 13 days ago I rose in my place to introduce Bill No. 68. At that time I made some comments and, with your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, I would like to repeat some of them at this time. Over the past number of days and weeks we would receive regular updates from the health constituencies around the province, and they were delivering one clear message, that the level of services that could be provided in the event of strikes was not one that was satisfactory and would meet the needs of Nova Scotians. Our health care system needs every nurse, every health care worker, every day, to adequately care for Nova Scotians. Our hospitals would work very hard to provide care, but they couldn't guarantee an adequate level of health and safety for our people in the face of strikes. The clock then was ticking towards a strike and, to be quite candid, the reason the legislation was introduced when it was, was that we hoped to have it passed so that a strike would not occur. Unfortunately, we were not successful.

We could have done one of two things, Mr. Speaker, we could have been faced with a situation, we could have chosen to sit on our hands and we could have watched and waited to see what materialized if there were severe labour stoppages in this province. Instead of doing that, we chose to act responsibly and decisively to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

The legislation, which I introduced, Mr. Speaker, was based on three principles. First, it was intended to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians by preventing a strike or, if there was one in place, returning people to work. Secondly, it allowed the collective bargaining process to continue and to reach negotiated agreements. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If I could seek the indulgence of the House. I will say that I did speak to an RN this morning. I don't know if she is here now or not, but one thing she did say to me this morning was that she came here to listen to all members' debates. I would ask the honourable members to at least respect her wishes and allow the honourable Minister of Health to please finish.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the third principle was, if negotiation, mediation and conciliation could not lead to an agreement, it enabled government to resolve provisions of the collective agreements.

On the first principle, as Health Minister I have a clear and certain responsibility to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians. Some would say that we acted too soon with this legislation, but I can tell you, and all members know, that the effects of a potential strike were already being felt around the province.

The second principle allowed for collective bargaining to continue. (Interruptions) The bill was very specific that nothing in the Act shall be construed so as to limit or restrict the

[Page 6300]

rights of the union and an employer from attempting to resolve any issues or make any agreements. (Interruptions)

Thirdly was the principle that the agreements that were made could not come at any cost to Nova Scotians. We not only have a responsibility to the health care workers in this province, we have a responsibility to all Nova Scotians to see that our health system, as well as our other services, are present today, they will be present tomorrow, and they will be sustainable in the future. We do not have an unlimited fiscal capacity.

Our system cannot run with health care workers alone, we have to be able to pay for and sustain enough hospital beds, medication and treatments to meet the needs of patients in care. I am also very conscious of the issues of recruiting and retaining nurses and other health care professionals. We have to pay them fairly and deal with recruitment and retention. One of the things this debate did allow us, as government, to do was to outline on many occasions the steps that we have taken in the 22 months that we have been in government to deal with the issues of recruitment and retention of health care workers.

Mr. Speaker, I can submit we have done more in the 22 months that we have been in power than probably any other government in the memory of most people in this province. (Interruptions) Speaking to the issue of fair compensation, it has been well said that there was about $100 million put on the table for the health care workers. To be quite frank, I wish it could have been more. We have a massive debt in this province, we are still running a deficit and, as I say, we are trying to be fair to our health care workers and we are also trying to be fair for Nova Scotians to protect our system.

We want to do more, but we can't do everything at once. In Health alone, costs continue to spiral upward. As I said, we still have to run our health care facilities to provide medication, buy equipment, and treat patients. As long as negotiations continue there can be some flexibility within any package that is on the table, but there has to be a ceiling and a responsible government must have the authority to set that ceiling. We aren't Alberta, as I said, we are still fighting a deficit and spiralling costs in health care.

We have no magic pot of money and to provide much more for health care workers would mean much less for something else, whether it is in the hospitals or elsewhere. I continue to remain hopeful that agreements can be reached at the table, but in the event that they cannot, as a government we had to do more than hope. We had a responsibility to act, and at no time is this action more critical than when health and safety are in question.

Mr. Speaker, there were interesting debates in the House for the last 13 days, and there are a number of people in the galleries who have been here on more than one occasion. There was some excellent debate that took place on the floor of the House, but there was also some of the lowest type of political pandering and guttersnipe politics that I have ever seen in my life. I was embarrassed. (Interruptions)

[Page 6301]

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Health has the floor. (Interruptions)

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will try to return the level of debate to a higher level. A vote will soon be taken (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes bring himself to order, please.

The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

MR. MUIR: I encourage members of the Opposition to act with government, assuming that this bill will pass, to ensure that there is no interruption in the health care services in this province, and that you work with us to work with the health care providers to find solutions to the problems which we, as Nova Scotians, face. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I would also encourage the unions and their leadership to work with the government, to get back to the bargaining table, where appropriate, to try to resolve these differences there. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, with those few comments, I move third reading of Bill No. 68. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Just for the information of all honourable members, there are two motions at present before the House. The first motion is that the previous question be now put. Is the House ready for the question?

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. We are not asking for a recorded vote on the previous question, but when it comes to the main motion on the bill, we are going to be asking for a recorded vote, so there is no confusion. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 6302]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, our Party concurs with the NDP House Leader in that regard.

MR. SPEAKER: The first motion is that the previous question be now put. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The second motion is for third reading of Bill No. 68.

A recorded vote is being called for.

The bells will sound. (Interruptions) Are the Whips satisfied? (Interruptions)

Order, please.

A recorded vote has been called for on third reading of Bill No. 68.

The Clerk will call the roll.

All those in favour will say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay. I would ask the honourable members to please keep the noise down so the Clerk can hear. Call the roll, please.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[3:20 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Christie Mr. Corbett

Mr. Baker Mr. Deveaux

Mr. Russell Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Dr. Hamm Mr. Dexter

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Holm

Mr. Muir Mr. Manning MacDonald

Miss Purves Mr. Downe

Mr. Fage Mr. Gaudet

Mr. Balser Dr. Smith

Mr. Parent Mr. MacAskill

Ms. McGrath Mr. Wilson

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. Boudreau

[Page 6303]

Mr. Olive Mr. Samson

Mr. Morse Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. MacIsaac Mr. Pye

Mr. DeWolfe Mr. MacDonell

Mr. Taylor Mr. Robert Chisholm

Mr. Dooks Mr. Estabrooks

Mr. Langille Mr. Epstein

Mr. Chataway Mr. Steele

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 29. Against 21.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried in the affirmative.

Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, with the indulgence of the House, we have had a long, hot session and I think it would be appropriate if members of the House thank the Pages, the kitchen staff, the security and the Legislative Counsel for their service during this sitting. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, members of the House of Assembly, I move that the House do now rise, to meet again at the call of the Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The House is adjourned.

[The House rose at 3:23 p.m.]

[Page 6304]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1943

By: Mr. Wayne Gaudet (Leader of the Liberal Party)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the NSGEU offered this government an olive branch yesterday which would have stopped the 6:00 a.m. strike; and

Whereas in that offer the union said it would not strike if the government killed Bill No. 68; and

Whereas the government could have easily taken the offer and then encouraged both sides to request binding arbitration which would have ended the labour unrest;

Therefore be it resolved that this government show true character and reconsider the union's offer which would stop the 6:00 a.m. strike by health care workers and nurses across Nova Scotia.

RESOLUTION NO. 1944

By: Dr. James Smith (Dartmouth East)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas yesterday one health care worker expressed concern when speaking to a Tory MLA and former Cabinet Minister who wasn't aware of the most basic details of his government's offer to the NSGEU; and

Whereas this Tory member was surprised upon learning that union NSGEU nurses and health care workers were covered under separate contracts; and

Whereas the Tory member was even more surprised to learn that his government is offering a 6 per cent wage increase to health care workers and a 10.5 per cent wage increase to nurses;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier at least educate his backbench regarding even the most basic contract details before he asks them to act like lemmings and vote in favour of Bill No. 68.

[Page 6305]

RESOLUTION NO. 1945

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas in 1988 United Nations peacekeepers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their collective efforts in the cause of peace which inspired the creation of the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal; and

Whereas this medal, which recognizes the extraordinary efforts and the leadership role of Canadian peacekeepers, is awarded to members of the Canadian Forces, members of the RCMP and other police services, and Canadian civilians who contribute to peace on specific missions; and

Whereas Head of Jeddore resident, Stewart "Skip" Duffie, serving under the Royal Canadian Signal Corps, was sent as part of the UN contingent to the Belgian Congo where, at the age of 21, he withstood the bloodiest UN mission to date and returned to his new family a corporal, promoted for meritorious service;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the courage of peacekeeper, Stewart "Skip" Duffie, congratulate him for receiving the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal and thank him for his efforts which have made us and all Canadians so proud.

RESOLUTION NO. 1946

By: Mr. Cecil Clarke (Cape Breton North)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Sandy Simms was one of hundreds of Cape Breton coal miners who lost their jobs when the federal government announced it was getting out of the coal mining business in 1999; and

Whereas Mr. Simms decided that if he was going to one day help pay for his children to go to university the best way to do so would be to head back to school to learn another vocation; and

[Page 6306]

Whereas in May, Mr. Simms graduated from the University of Maine with his Bachelor of Education, having previously received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University College of Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Sandy Simms for the dedication and commitment which allowed him to turn a career setback into a new career opportunity.

RESOLUTION NO. 1947

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School's Law Enforcement Program, just two years old, recently held its first graduation ceremonies to celebrate its students completion; and

Whereas designed to familiarize students with basic policing skills, the law enforcement course gives students, with an eye to careers involving components of enforcement, a sample of the techniques needed to administer enforcement; and

Whereas developed more fully in its second year, this course has a demanding physical element and focuses on order-taking skills and marching;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs congratulate the members of the graduating class of the Law Enforcement Program and Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School for offering their students a chance to learn about the discipline, personal strength and conviction needed to work in any capacity of law enforcement.

RESOLUTION NO. 1948

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas a decade has passed since the Yarmouth Association for Community Residential Options was first established and, in those years, it has expanded considerably, now employing 135 people and serving clients in both the Yarmouth and Halifax areas; and

[Page 6307]

Whereas over these years, YACRO has provided a variety of services including independent living programs and small options homes for both adults and children, now, through a respite coordinator, families are matched with the respite care providers they need; and

Whereas the organization's success comes from its history of flexibility, serving the individual needs of each of its clients;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate the Yarmouth Association for Community Residential Options - its board of directors, Executive Director Joan Paquette and all staff on its 10th Anniversary and thank all those involved for the important services YACRO has provided to satisfy the range of needs of mentally- and physically-challenged people.

RESOLUTION NO. 1949

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas although times were hard during the Depression, people still managed to enjoy themselves especially with softball which required no gear so that where there was a bat and a ball there were two teams playing; and

Whereas the softball explosion hit particularly hard in Pictou County, where it was first played in Nova Scotia in 1919 in the Stellarton rink, and by the 1930's there were at least 42 teams, the players both Black and white; and

Whereas the Coloured Wonders were one of these teams and will join the list of Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame members when Bill Paris, the team's lone survivor, is inducted on behalf of his teammates later this summer;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Bill Paris on his induction to the Pictou County Sports Heritage Hall of Fame and salute the memory of all the players of the Coloured Wonders who were part of Pictou County's proud softball tradition.

[Page 6308]

RESOLUTION NO. 1950

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Landsdowne Outdoor Recreational Development Association (LORDA), created by the Leese family of Westville, is an internationally renowned non-profit recreational wilderness park designed specifically for seniors and the disabled; and

Whereas the Leese family gave their land, time and money to develop this disabled-accessible park, which has grown to include fishing ponds, nature trails and picnic areas, they relied on the faith, commitment and dedication of others to put plans into action; and

Whereas Jack Baker's commitment to LORDA has been exceptional, giving freely of time and legal advice since the park's beginning and helping to make the dream a reality and LORDA has presented Jack a Canadian Wildlife Series painting in recognition of the priceless role he played in making LORDA what it is today;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Jack Baker for his interest and dedication to the LORDA project and urge other professionals to follow his example and apply their skills to great ideas so that important projects come to life in their communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 1951

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas one-room schools served much of Nova Scotia for almost 200 years and while they offered plain, homespun schooling, they began many notable careers and their students made innumerable contributions to the developments of this province and our quality of life; and

Whereas Barneys River Station School Museum helps raise the awareness and appreciation of the education delivered in the one-room school and exhibits class and community pictures, classroom collectibles and memorabilia and displays photos of former students; and

[Page 6309]

Whereas when Don MacKenzie of Lower Sackville agreed to create a model of this schoolhouse, built to scale and furnished, he had no idea how the project would touch him, that he would discover that two people he'd never forgotten from long ago, his boyhood minister and a fellow soldier who landed at Normandy but did not survive, were former students of Barneys River Station School;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Don MacKenzie for his fine and careful work and acknowledge our ties to these one-room schools that have impacted most of our lives.

RESOLUTION NO. 1952

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas a brand new house in Westville will soon be home for a group of mentally- challenged adults returning to Pictou County; and

Whereas this seven bedroom group home was the truest kind of homework for Nova Scotia Community College - Pictou Campus students who went to work for the Riverview Home Adult Residential Centre; and

Whereas the project started as a remarkable hands-on, learning experience for students in the carpentry/construction and cabinet carpentry programs and ended up a matter of great pride and satisfaction;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the carpentry students of the Pictou Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College for putting their lessons to the test and welcome the new residents of the new Temperance Street home.

RESOLUTION NO. 1953

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society is a partnership whose goal is to achieve a better understanding between fishermen and scientists by fishermen learning from scientists and scientists learning from fishermen; and

[Page 6310]

Whereas the Oceans 11 program, a senior high curriculum course, teaches students about the issues which concern oceans and the environment and the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society, in support of this program, offers an annual award to those students who demonstrate a high level of interest, motivation, participation and hard work in their Oceans 11 class; and

Whereas at East Pictou Rural High School, Janice Rudderham has been selected for her efforts in the Oceans 11 class and has received the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society Oceans 11 Program Award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Janice Rudderham on the Fishermen and Scientists Research Society's Oceans 11 Award and urge her to maintain her enthusiasm and to pursue her interest in this increasingly important area of study.

RESOLUTION NO. 1954

By: Hon. Neil LeBlanc (Minister of Finance)

I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas lifeguards make it easier for Nova Scotians and visitors alike to enjoy our province's many beaches; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service has partnered with the Municipalities of Yarmouth and Clare to provide lifeguard service at Lake Milo Boat Club near Yarmouth and Mavilette Beach in Clare Municipality; and

Whereas the partnership will ensure that Lake Milo will have lifeguards on duty from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and provide weekend lifeguard service where there previously had been no presence at Mavilette;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Nova Scotia Lifeguard Service and the Municipalities of Clare and Yarmouth for forging a partnership that will help save lives.